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Flexible Spending Account Ideas

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It’s December 18th, I have $131.81 in my Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to spend it on. This is doubly difficult because last year I smashed a year of spending in three months (only $300) as I overfunded my FSA when I started my new job and I spent down my former job’s FSA, all in about the same two or three month period. So, what can I do? I took a look at the list of eligible FSA expenses and broke them down into a bunch of categories: Procedures, Nice To Have Items, Stock-up-able Items, and Useless (And Perhaps Funny). (I pulled the list from some page I found)

Procedures

First and foremost, consider getting a general medical check-up or eye exam or dental check-up. All the out of pocket expenses related to these are covered and if you haven’t done it this year there’s certainly no reason not to. So, when you get a dental cleaning and you pay a few bucks for the co-pay, that’s covered. This should be idea #1 when spending down your FSA (as long as you haven’t procrastinated like me, but I’ve gotten all checked up earlier this year).

Nice To Have Items

These are expensive items that don’t have a daily purpose but might be nice to have around the house such as a blood pressure monitor, ear infection monitor, and other personal test kits. Some items that aren’t explicitly listed under an OTC item are heating pads and ACE bandages, but I’ve claimed them before and they had been reimbursed.

This category of items I’d look into last after stocking up on stock-up-able items.

Stock-up-able Items

This category is exactly what it sounds like, all those OTC drugs you can stock up and use for the next year. These are your pain killers, allergy medicines (antihistamines), decongestants, anti-arthritics, antacids/acid-reducers, band-aids and bandages, contact lens solutions (I stock up on this stuff, I probably have around 20 bottles!), denture adhesive, ear and eye car products, eye drops, hearing aid batteries, lactaid/lactose intolerance, hemorrhoidal products, motion sickness pills, throat pain medications, condoms (whoo hooo party!) and wart removal.

This list can go on and on with tons of products you use and is always my first bucket. The warning I have is that you shouldn’t ever buy more than a year’s worth of any one product because you’re likely going to go through the exercise against at the end of next year. It was a mistake for me to stock up on 20 bottles of contact lens solutions before I thought about it because now I have enough solution for far too long (don’t worry, I checked the expiration date and I’m safe).

Useless (And Perhaps Funny) Items

Now, these are useless to me but they may not be useless for you. What fits into this bucket will depend on your situation but all the products that need a doctor’s note or handle a situation such as obesity or smoking addiction don’t apply to me. The ones that require a doctor’s note cover very specific conditions such as joint pain, dental flouride, OTC hormone therapy, snoring cessation, and other such conditions. The ones that don’t require a note but must be “medically necessary” are weight loss pills and smoking cessation products (patches, gum, etc.)

So, check out the stock-up-ables and stock up, then consider something “extravagant” like some blood pressure monitor or a an ear infection monitor; when thinking about how to spend down your FSA. I’m going to stock up on loratadine, the good stuff inside Claritin’s allergy medicine, some OTC drugs, and perhaps something extravagant to finish off that list little bit of cash. If you’re looking for ideas, drugstore.com has an FSA store that I sometimes search through when trying to figure out ideas.

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6 Responses to “Flexible Spending Account Ideas”

  1. dha says:

    First time commenter, I love your site. However, sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of FSAs. Just two questions: 1) How much have you actually saved by using FSAs? 2) How much have you “blown” in leftover FSA money or generally paid for things you wouldn’t have otherwise, just because it was there? Personally, I’m young, healthy, and single, and think an FSA would be a losing proposition for me.

  2. Ryan S. says:

    I only wish my job had flexible spending plans for us. While the coverage I get from the job is grat, copays keep going up, and being in the 25% bracket, any savings helps!

  3. bryan says:

    why arent you contributing to an HSA instead where your unused dollars are treated as a retirement account and not lost?

  4. Colonel Cash says:

    Great Ideas! Will mention on Money and Credit! Thanks!

  5. kitty says:

    “why arent you contributing to an HSA instead where your unused dollars are treated as a retirement account and not lost?”
    HSAs come with high deductible plans. For many people this means a whole lot of out-of-pocket expenses. My employer offers HSA/high deductible too, but for me it would mean I am paying for everything.

    Sure if one is young, healthy, single, has 20/20 vision, excellent teeth or is in lower tax bracket one doesn’t need it. But if one pays even a couple of hundred in co-insurance for things like dental cleanings/checkups and is in a higher tax bracket it is worth it. Also, if one needs glasses, one can always use leftover money for a new pair.

    I am in 28% tax bracket, so it does save me money. Normally I just look at my ongoing out-of-pocket expenses and put that. Then I add anything expected – like a dental implant or a crown, for example. Last year I put there around $800 and used all of it. Add to it NY State taxes and you’ll get almost $300 saved.

    One thing I might do if I have extra money next year is replace on of the older porcelain-on-metal crown with all-porcelain one: it’s on one of the back teeth, but I have a wide smile, and the dark line is showing under the gums. But I like the idea of stacking up on tylenol/aspirin too.

  6. Toban says:

    It is my understanding that milage to medical appointments is FSA claimable at $.20 per mile for 2007.


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