Didn't 2019 just start last week? January 2020 may be closer than the previous one, but for many of you, FSA spending is still something you're planning for the remainder of the year.
You may have spent more of your FSA funds than you planned to early in the year. But before you start kicking yourself for overspending, you have plenty of time to still budget the remainder of your 2019 -- and use this planning to create a sustainable budget for next year, so you truly make the most of your funds each month.
Re-examine your monthly needs
We're all guilty of it -- starting a year with a budget in mind, then seeing that full allocation of funds and spending it early in the year. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that's your game plan. But many FSA users will agree that setting a budget for each month's needs allows these tax-free dollars to go a little further.
If you're interested in making a monthly budget for your FSA funds that can last you throughout the rest of the year, start by creating a list of your monthly necessities, take stock of what items in your home need to be replenished in the future (such as bandages, over-the-counter remedies, etc.), and set limits each month on how much you'll spend.
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Since it's open enrollment season, also take some time to calculate how much you think you'll spend on qualified medical expenses. Our FSA Calculator can help you estimate your health spending!
The calculation takes into account:
Out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles for medical services including routine office visits, specialist office visits, and even hospitalization or acupuncture.
Over-the-counter FSA-eligible items and prescriptions.
Dental care and vision care.
Visit your doctor
If there's one extra expense you should always factor in, it should be medical appointments -- even basic trips to your primary care doctor to get a full assessment of your current state of health. With a clean bill of health in hand, you'll be able to settle into the winter (and have a much better idea of what your medical spending will amount to over the course of next year, to help your budgeting for the year ahead).
Buy items online as you need them - look for seasonal care, over-the-counter FSA items that you use often, and discover just how many products are FSA-eligible. Note that certain over-the-counter products will require a prescription to be reimbursed under your FSA.
By planning ahead, you'll easily avoid buying products in bulk (or unnecessarily stockpiling) and instead enjoy a variety of items - rather than ending up with multiple pairs of eyeglasses, or unneeded boxes of bandages (which isn't recommended ever, because the IRS frowns upon you buying more of one item than you would need for any given plan year)..
Think beyond prescriptions and standard appointments
Depending on the availability of your preferred physician and your need for prescription drugs, you may have limited ways to spend your FSA dollars. Review the rules of your plan and you may find out that you may be reimbursed for qualifying diagnostic devices and even smoking cessation and weight loss programs when needed to treat a diagnosed medical condition and prescribed by your doctor, chiropractor medical services, and many other types of expenses.
Even if you're healthy as a horse, don't forget to plan for the unexpected during these last few months of 2019. When putting together your budget, be sure to still leave about 10-20% of your funds aside to cover unexpected medical expenditures.
Whether this is for the cost of medication, an emergency room visit, or a trip to a specialist, this will give you additional breathing room to put toward major medical needs with your tax-free funds.
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.