Living Well

Real Money: My dream FSA shopping list

The entire self-care industry seems to have been given a bad rap lately, with people encouraging us to spend outrageous money on things like gold face masks, weekly massages (that aren't medically necessary), or going on shopping sprees all in the effort to "treat yourself."

Alright, perhaps I'm being a bit pessimistic here, but self-care to me has always been a daily practice, in which I take care of my mental and physical health -- not a luxury "day out." It's an absolute necessity because without either of those things, I don't feel as ready to be there for work and my family.

However, if you're like me, you may feel a little bit of guilt spending time and money on yourself. One way that may help is to look at money you can set aside specifically for self-care.

Take your FSA for example. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes you'll have money sitting in the account that you need to use up or else it'll be lost forever. In this case, why not look for self-care products that are both medically necessary (i.e. helpful for your physical health) and give you an opportunity to use up your FSA funds?

Personally, I like to keep a wish list for such occasions. Here are just a few of the items I'd love to buy if I had FSA funds I really needed to use up.

Remote-powered foot circulator

I'm a sucker for tools that relax stiff muscles. With a young kid to take care of and standing on my feet most days when I'm attending conferences, my legs get sore real fast.

I'd love to get this remote-powered foot circulator so I can just turn it on, sit back and relax while eliminating my pain. The product claims to help increase blood circulation and reduces swollen feet too, which sounds awesome if I need to get up the next day and face another hectic work schedule

Full-on migraine relief

Loud noises and bright lights tend to give me headaches, and unfortunately my son's toys seem to be the noisiest and brightest when I'm the most stressed. I'd love to find a drug-free solution to headaches so I can lie back and just let go.

This looks pretty neat since you get a head and eye wrap and can be used hot or cold, which is lovely because it really depends on what kind of headache or migraine you have as to what you need.

Acupressure mat set (don't forget the pillow)

I'm a total sucker for anything purple and alternative medicine. My grandfather was actually a traditional Chinese doctor so when I saw this mat, it was totally up my alley. The idea is that you lay on this mat that uses acupressure points to relieve pain. I want it because I tend to have a lot of neck and shoulder pain.

Next-level lip balm

Nobody can blame a person for wanting to look nice, right? But more importantly, I want to look nice while getting the necessary sun protection I need.

SPF lip balm is something I love because it offers that level of protection -- something I definitely need since my family spends a ton of time outdoors. But it also looks pretty good, too! This tinted lip balm offers a few colors to choose from -- but I'm digging on the one called "Summer Crush" right now.

From the looks of it, it's also got SPF 30 and a bunch of non-toxic ingredients, so it's good for your health and the environment.

Here's my dream FSA wish list, at a glance...

AccuRelief Ultimate Foot Circulator

Prescription-strength relief by relaxing stiff muscles and increasing blood circulation


Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Basics

FSA Deadline: Don't let your funds become an unintentional charity

The holidays are a time for giving, and for many people part of that giving spirit is contributing to a charity (or charities) of choice. And that's awesome.

But one place where you want to avoid being "too giving" is with your FSA account. Not only can't you use FSA funds to gift products or services to others (your FSA can only be used on you or your qualifying dependents), but your unspent FSA money doesn't go to a deserving charity -- it's used for an entirely different purpose.

What happens if you don't spend FSA funds?

Unlike HSAs, FSA funds don't rollover from year-to-year and are instead subject to what is typically called the "use it or lose it" rule.

That money doesn't just disappear. Whatever funds are unused go back to your employer. Now, to be fair, employers don't necessarily want the money back - the IRS requires they get it back. In these situations, it's used to balance losses that happen when employees overspend their accounts and then leave a company. This money helps the company offset the loss.

It's certainly a good use of money for the company, but there are no direct benefits to you. Ask yourself this: Would you donate your paycheck for your company's other financial gaps? Unless the answer is "yes" it's time to start putting your FSA money toward better things.

What to do? Get to spending!

If your plan has a December 31 spending deadline, guess what? That's just weeks away, so take a look at your FSA account. If you have funds remaining, FSAStore.com has ways you can make sure you're not losing out on the opportunity to spend wisely.

If you're not sure where to start to zero out that FSA account before the deadline, here are a few out-of-the-box ideas:

The key takeaway is to remember that FSA funds are yours -- and there are a ton of uses you might not have even considered. If you are at risk of losing your FSA funds by December 31, browse through our growing list of more than 4,000 eligible items for your health and wellness.

In the end, make sure that zero balance in your account at the end of the year is because you spent every penny you contributed, and not because you missed out on a fantastic opportunity.

Deadlines

Have a year-end FSA deadline?

Have a year-end FSA deadline? Get spending tips from FSAstore.com CEO's and learn more about your FSA!

By Jeremy Miller, CEO & Founder of FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com

Open enrollment is a done deal for many companies, but employees – especially those who are facing a year-end flexible spending account deadline – still need support and direction from human resources and benefits professionals.

Recent surveys have shown that consumers still don't fully understand how their spending accounts work and, more importantly, that they look to their employers as a source of education and information about how to use their accounts. You can improve employee education, engagement and satisfaction with your company's FSA by reminding employees of these key spending account tips and reminders.

1. When is the deadline to submit expenses?

For many employers, December 31 is the deadline for employees to spend down FSA funds – or risk forfeiting unused dollars. This is commonly known as the “Use-it-or-lose-it" rule.

2. Is there an extension for spending FSA dollars?

Be sure to communicate clearly (and often) if your company offers one of the following plan features that give employees extra time to spend down their FSA or submit expenses for reimbursement:

  • Carryover or Rollover Option: This allows employees to carry over up to $500 of unused FSA dollars to the next plan year. This amount is added to their balance for the next year.
  • Grace Period: A grace period gives employees two-and-a-half months beyond December 31 (until March 15) to incur expenses and spend unused FSA dollars.
  • Run-Out Period: A run-out period gives employees additional time (usually 90 days) beyond the end of the plan year to submit reimbursement requests for eligible expenses, but only if those expenses were incurred during the plan year.

Employers can offer the carryover option or a grace period, but not both. Your company is not required to offer either of these options, but if your plan includes an extended deadline, that means employees have more time and flexibility to use their accounts, so be sure they understand this benefit.