Treat yourself before the holidays arrive

We know what you're probably thinking -- it's only the beginning of November, why are they already talking about the holidays? Well, we don't want to create any unnecessary panic, but now that the Halloween costumes are packed away, the holidays really are here. And that should get you thinking about the 12/31 FSA deadline.

Don't worry - if you still have some FSA funds to use before the deadline, we have some real world suggestions on how to put these funds to use to better your health before the ball drops in a few short weeks.

Does the 12/31 deadline even apply to you?

You'd be amazed how many people do all of their spending at the end of the calendar year, without even knowing if that's their actual deadline. While New Year's Eve represents a large percentage of the FSA shopping each winter, a lot of accounts have different deadlines throughout the year.

Even better, many FSA administrators allow you to take advantage of both the grace period and runout period exceptions.

If you're not familiar with these terms: the FSA grace period gives you 2.5 months after the end of your plan year to spend your remaining FSA funds from the previous year. So if your plan usually ends on December 31, you would have until March 15 to spend the last of your 2017 funds.

The runout period is an option offered by your employer to submit claims from the previous year. This will give you a chance to be reimbursed for any outstanding medical expenses you incurred during 2017 and forgot to submit for reimbursement.

Finally, even if your deadline is firm on 12/31, you might also have the option to rollover up to $500 of unused funds into the next plan year.

So, before you panic, check with your benefits administrator to see if these options are offered through your account. You might just have more time to shop! That said, considering the oncoming winter and the holiday sales, you might not want to wait.

If it does end on 12/31...

… you should put focus on your health needs -- maybe those needs that aren't directly covered by your insurance. If you've put off your own visits this year then strongly consider taking care of them with your FSA.

Your FSA covers out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles, copays and coinsurance for visits with medical providers. This includes specialists not covered by your regular insurance plan, including chiropractors. You can also get dental exams, annual eye exams or take your child to a pediatrician with an FSA.

But again, the calendar is flipping quickly, so schedule these visits before the deadline, and make sure to check in with your FSA administrator to find out which services are covered by your FSA.

And of course, also consider using these funds for more-serious issues, even if they're preventive in nature. As the winter approaches, it's important to take things like heart health and diabetes risk into account, especially if you live in a climate that tends to keep you inside (and less active) during these months.

Not only does your FSA cover visits, but it can also be used to purchase items like heart health and blood pressure monitors, diabetes testing and management products and much more. In short, it's great to use an FSA for things you use everyday. It's even greater when you use the funds for items you'll hopefully never need again.

And if you still have funds left over…

This is where it gets fun. If that deadline is racing closer, and you're still unsure of what items you'll need, then it's time to shop.

With the deadline approaching, consider buying yourself a necessary health item that you've been putting off -- maybe some hi-tech items, like smartphone thermometers, or that awesome foot circulator we mentioned earlier. Maybe you move beyond medication and go for more targeted TENS therapy for pain.

Maybe you even go a little further and buy some high-ticket items like magnetic lumbar support cushions, or bed pillows that control acid reflux. The things you never wanted to spend out of pocket for might just become the things you can't live without.

No matter how you plan to use your remaining FSA dollars, there's no escaping that the 12/31 deadline is closer than you think. So, take the time to check your balance, make a few smart choices, and give yourself (and your finances) a little holiday bonus ahead of time.

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