4 Ways to Spend FSA Money by the End of 2018 (and How to Estimate 2019 FSA Contributions)
Are you one of the 35 million Americans who take advantage of an FSA? If so, you may be starting to worry about unused funds in your account as 2018 draws to a close. Nearly 80% of those with a Flexible Spending Account, or FSA, are unsure of what the employer-provided benefit can be used for. An FSA is designed to save you money, so not properly utilizing funds can cancel out its advantages. You may not be able to get unused funds back at the end of the year but luckily, you do have options. Explore the following to see which best suits your needs to spend FSA money.
You may be able to carry over funds
Some FSAs have a carry-over feature, allowing you to roll over up to $500 of unused funds into the next year’s account. You may also be able to take advantage of an employer-provided grace period (typically two and a half months) to utilize any unused funds. Keep in mind that employers are not required to provide these features, so you may not have access to them.
Stock up for 2019
Many FSA holders are surprised to learn just how many everyday products are eligible to be purchased with their funds. Some accounts provide you with a debit card to use at your local store, but you can also explore the virtual aisles of FSAstore.com, where you’ll find everything from shoe insoles to thermometers.
Stock up the medicine cabinet and first aid kits with what you can. Keep in mind that some over the counter products require a doctor’s prescription for reimbursement so do your homework before you do your shopping.
Rearrange your calendar
Are you due for a tooth cleaning in January? See if you can move your appointment to December. Are the kids due for an eye exam? Ask if you can squeeze in their appointments during winter break.
If you know you have an upcoming appointment, see if you can move it up a few weeks. If you’ve been meaning to schedule an appointment, now is the time to do it. You can then use your FSA funds to cover copays or costs not covered by insurance.
Share the wealth
Most FSA holders know they can use the funds for themselves, their spouse, and their dependent children. But it surprises some to learn they can use them for their older children as well, even if they’re not on their insurance plan.
Estimate 2019 FSA needs
If you find yourself scrambling year after year to spend excess FSA funds, it’s time to reevaluate how you plan and save.
- First, closely review this year’s expenses. Make note of ordinary appointments and their costs. Highlight the unexpected ones.
- Look at next year’s calendar. Will the same number and types of appointments be necessary? Are the costs that took you by surprise part of your healthcare routine now? Are you anticipating any larger, one-time costs, like a surgery or having a baby? Add all your estimates together.
- Now that you have a closer idea of what the next year will bring, ask yourself if you want to worry more about having money left over or having to spend a bit out of pocket. This will determine if you should contribute 100% of your estimate or something closer to 80%.
An FSA can help you save on both expected and unexpected medical costs throughout the year for you and your family. Too many employees don’t take advantage of this unique employer-provided benefit. Spend your money smarter with an FSA.
A little prep work is all it takes to save money and live a healthier lifestyle.