10 Ideas for Using Your FSA Before Year End
I hate leaving money on the table — the operating table, ha! — by failing to spend my whole medical flexible spending account. As the final hours of 2011 tick down, it's time to use up your flexible spending balance before you lose it!
(If you don't know what flexible spending accounts are, you probably don't have one. But check out the post What You Need to Know About Your FSA to learn the basics.)
This year it's a little more challenging because the rules have changed for 2011 — you can no longer use the funds for over-the-counter medication unless you get a prescription. If at all possible, start this process before your doctor's office closes for the week, because even if there's no time for an appointment, they may be able to help you with paperwork. Here are some ideas for spending a lot in just a little time.
1. Order Glasses or Contacts
This is a favorite at our house, because even if you already have a decent pair of glasses, who couldn't use some prescription sunglasses or a spare pair? I have used Zenni Optical and Coastal Contacts and was happy with both — Coastal tends to be more expensive than Zenni, but with nicer frames and more coupon codes. (See also: 6 Ways to Save Money on Eyeglasses)
2. See the Eye Doctor
Optometrists are easier with last-minute appointments than doctors, and if your prescription is more than a year old, it's a good idea to get a new one now. If you have extra money to blow, you can spring for all the tests like getting your eyes dilated. Hey, wearing sunglasses to your New Year's Eve party will make you look like a celebutante!
3. Join Weight Watchers Online
You can prepay for a three-month plan. When my husband did this, he just noted that his doctor had verbally advised him to exercise to lose weight. But to be safer, fax or email your doctor this form (PDF), and include the completed form with your request for reimbursement.
4. Sign Up and Pay for a Tobacco Cessation Program
Again, you should get your doc to recommend this in writing, but what doctor wouldn't?
5. Go to the Dentist
Like the eye doctor, dentist offices sometimes have last-minute openings. No cavities? If you have a few hundred to blow, get your kid to get dental sealants.
6. Get a Flu Shot
Many drugstores offer walk-in flu vaccinations, and some do shingles as well. Take the kids in for shots, too. Even if you do this at the doctor's office, many offices don't require appointments to have a nurse give you an immunization.
7. Refill Any and All Prescriptions Your Family Already Has
You can check with the pharmacist to make sure that the allergy meds you plan to take come spring will still be good if you buy them now.
8. Purchase Medical Supplies
The new prescription requirement applies to OTC drugs but not equipment, such as Band-Aids, contact lens solution, barrier contraceptives (as in, condoms), pregnancy tests, blood pressure cuffs, or crutches. Hey, they make some really expensive bandages these days!
9. Call Your Doctor's Office and Ask for a Quick Prescription for OTC Drugs
If the office can send it straight to your drugstore, you may be able to get this done in less than a day.
10. Reread Your Company's FSA Policy
Or put in a quick call to HR; you have more time than you think. Some policies include a grace period after the end of the year when you can still spend your funds.
While you're at it, plan ahead to avoid spoiling next New Year's Eve with these concerns. If you have already made your FSA election for 2012, book enough appointments now to make sure you've taken care of any routine health maintenance well before it becomes an FSA emergency.