That's Eligible?! Three of the LEAST-expected FSA-eligible services

Most people with FSA money to spend know that a wide range of everyday medical supplies, services and expenses are FSA-eligible. You know the usual suspects -- bandages, pain relief medications, etc. But, it's possible you might have some other medical expenditures that also fall under the FSA-eligible umbrella.

(Pro Tip: We have approximately 4,000+ FSA-eligible items in our store -- there's a really good chance you weren't expecting all of them to be there.)

It's always worth taking a few minutes to research if any of your health-related costs are covered when planning your FSA spending budget. With that in mind, here are just three examples things you'd never expect to be FSA-eligible:

Companion animals

Let's start off with one of our favorites. Companion animals. These lovable, loyal helpers come in two basic types: emotional support animals for individuals, and therapy animals that are fully obedience trained to assist at hospitals, retirement homes and schools.

Costs related to service animals are FSA-eligible if the person who requires the animal's care has a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN). This eligibility extends to companion animal needs too.

If a service animal is under your care, the costs related to that animal's well-being, such as dog food or veterinary treatments are FSA-eligible when you provide appropriate supporting documentation. Keep in mind these are also eligible with HSAs and HRAs (if the plan allows), but not with limited care FSAs or dependent care FSAs.

Alcohol addiction treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction and find the treatments to be cost-prohibitive, your FSA can help. Not only are recovery center visits eligible, often including meals and lodging, but if membership in Alcoholics Anonymous is considered necessary for your recovery, transportation to and from meetings also qualifies (your doctor may need to provide you with documentation for reimbursement).

Speaking of which...

Travel for medical care

Getting to and from AA meetings is FSA-eligible because travel and transportation costs for medical care is eligible with FSAs, Examples include:

  • Rental car, bus, taxi, train, plan and ferry fees
  • Ambulatory services
  • Car-related costs including mileage, gas, oil, parking and toll fees

And who is covered?

  • Person receiving medical care
  • Parents required to travel with a child
  • Nurse or caregiver required for treatment
  • Individual required to help a mentally ill dependent safely travel.

Lodging can also be an eligible expense for patients and an accompanying individual, but the amount is capped and the lodging must be for medical treatment and not personal pleasure, recreation or travel.

To be on the safe side, if you're planning on using FSA funds for lodging, it's best to speak with your FSA administrator first to determine exactly what types of documentation they'll want you to collect on your trip to ensure reimbursement by your FSA..

Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Hit the brakes on holiday hangovers

It's that time of year – holiday parties and fun with friends and family offer many chances to overdo it. Maybe you don't usually drink too much alcohol, but the spirit of the season sometimes leads us to take part in "just one more toast."

While you'll enjoy it in the moment, the next morning, those extra sips might result in bleary eyes and a pounding head. So the age-old question is, how do you avoid a hangover? And the reason it's an "age-old question" is because there's no single right answer.

Everyone's least favorite advice is also the simplest way to avoid hangovers: Just don't drink any alcohol.

No, it's not the most popular option, but there are plenty of mocktails and non-alcoholic drink options that still feel festive. However, if you choose to drink alcohol, here are some good suggestions to keep the party going.

  • Pace yourself. Start the night with a plan to only have one or two (maybe three) drinks over the course of the entire evening. And stick to that plan no matter what tempting concoctions are placed in front of you. (Or whatever peer pressure you might face from the office party planning committee.)

    We know the best-laid plans can go south quickly. Even if you go into the night planning on partying a little hardier than usual, there are steps you can take to help cut off that hangover before it starts.
  • Hydrate. One thing that most experts agree upon is that dehydration is a leading cause of hangovers. There's no way to prevent the process, but you can certainly counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol by drinking plenty of water. Drink extra water before you go out for the night, and keep doing it throughout the evening.

    One rule of thumb that's worked for us is to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you take in. The key is to stay aware of how many alcoholic beverages you enjoy compared to how much water you drink to help fight off a throbbing head tomorrow.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time. If you're enjoying the holiday spirit, you might stay up later than usual. Oh, who are we kidding? You're definitely going to be out later than usual. So try and get a relatively normal amount of sleep and give your body a chance to reboot.
  • Don't drink your dinner. Drinking alcohol can fill you up quickly. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't eat. And even though you might not feel like a big breakfast, don't skip out on eating a good meal the next morning to help fuel the day, and help kick-start your body's metabolism.

What if you didn't read this reminder in time, and stayed out too late anyway? Well, there's no time machine to help you make different decisions, so let's deal with the unpleasant reality of a hangover.

First off, fight the urge to drink a lot of coffee. Because the caffeine could actually make your hangover symptoms worse. Caffeine narrows blood vessels, which increases blood pressure. If your head is already pounding, this could make the pounding worse.

Additionally, coffee can have diuretic effects, which could make your body more dehydrated. This further narrows your blood vessels, increasing your blood pressure and the aches.

Instead, give your body what it needs, even if you can't imagine tipping another glass. Drink water to rehydrate your body throughout the day. A lot of people swear that sports drinks or electrolyte beverages work quicker, but there are too many differing opinions on whether or not they actually help. It's best to stick to pure H2O for fool-proof results.

You also need rest to recover. It's probably not the best idea to call out sick the day after an office party. But if an extra half hour of sleep might make you a more productive worker, see if you can negotiate a late arrival.

Finally, if you have the day off, try and relax. Part of the recovery might be a nice sleep mask to keep out that pesky sun.

Look, holiday parties are a wonderful thing. So, go enjoy yourself -- just do it responsibly. Eat, drink, laugh and be merry … with moderation and the next day in mind.

From all of us at FSAstore.com, best wishes for a happy holiday season!

Sleep Masks

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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.

Living Well

How to turn Black Friday into cardio heaven

Anyone choosing to shop on Black Friday knows it can be… an experience. Waiting in line in the cold, running between tenacious shoppers (who really need that dollhouse this instant), and even playing parking lot chicken for a spot. Any spot.

But it doesn't have to be all bad, if look at this as a chance to work out! If you play your cards right you can actually turn a Black Friday grind into a decent cardio workout, while chipping away at the holiday gift list.

Now, these tips are coming from a fellow Black Friday shopper and occasional gym rat. If you plan on doing any physical activity above your usual level, always check with a qualified medical professional. (Yes, even if your annual workout occurs at Target, take the right precautions!)

Ready, set -- go shop!

Before you even head out, it's a good idea to do a little stretching. Take a few pre-workout precautions like maybe wearing some compression socks, and even packing some precautionary pain relief.

Sure the goal of the day is to buy gifts for your favorite people. But if you've tuned into to any Black Friday footage from the beginning of time, you know it gets physical fast. For example, if you get stuck parking at the back end of the cold, dark parking lot, see it as a cardio opportunity and map a quick sprint to the line at the door.

If you're too far away, break the run into two or more smaller wind sprints, giving yourself quick breathers in between.

The idea is to get to the front door quicker and get that heart rate up as part one of your midnight cardio regimen.

Keep track of your mileage

If you're really going all in on Black Friday, you'll be hitting stores with massive square footage, like at long shopping centers, or maybe even a good ol' multilevel mall.

You can use a pedometer, a fitness smartwatch, a smartphone app, or maybe just a rough estimate in your head, but it's easy to keep track of how much you're walking that day.

It may not feel like a lot, but walking is a great low-impact cardio workout. And feel free to give yourself bonus points for carrying a bunch of heavy bags while zigzagging around aisles and mobs like the most stressful obstacle course of all time.

When the day's done, you'll be worn out from a workout that would impress any trainer.

Of course, you might want to make use of a new round of pain relief and some orthopedic supports and ice packs for your knees. Also consider a raw steak in case your store turns into a boxing match. You might get a black eye -- but you'll be a Black Friday viral hit (pun intended).

And if that isn't the true spirit of health and holiday cheer, we don't know what is.

Compression Socks

Keep your circulation sharp with compression socks for all shapes and sizes.

Ice Packs

Practice the "I" in RICE method with all of the FSA-eligible ice packs.

Living Well

4.5 tips for avoiding holiday-induced indigestion

The holiday season is upon us, kicking off with the Thanksgiving Day feast, which will have some football watching, good times catching up with family, and of course, food.

Lots of food.

One unfortunate side effect of a day built around overeating is the potential for indigestion. In that holiday spirit here are a handful of tips to help you avoid that outcome (along with a couple of bonus items most Thanksgiving fans may ignore.)

The obvious first tip for getting through the day without suffering from indigestion involves avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol. But as I write this with a large coffee in my hand, I realize it might be difficult. So here are 4.5 more tips to help reduce the chance of stomach problems.

Mind your manners

If you chew your meal with your mouth open, talk while food is in your mouth, or rush through the first course to beat everyone to a round of seconds, you risk swallowing air which makes indigestion more likely, risking potential bloating and indigestion.

Plus, the real bonus for chewing with your mouth closed is that you'll be a much more pleasant dining companion. Because let's be honest, your opinions on the current state of politics, sports and current events can wait. At least until you've chewed and swallowed a proper number of times.

(Or until everyone else has had more caffeine or alcohol, completely ignoring the first advice we offered in this post.)

Don't lose track of common sense

The wide range of dishes spread before you will be tempting, but if you have any food allergies, or know some food doesn't agree with you – such as spicy or greasy dishes – try not to eat them.

Hopefully, you'll have plenty of options beyond those tempting, but risky dishes. And if you happen to be a vegetarian, you might want to double check that no one is trying to sneak some hidden ham in the green beans for the classic holiday "gotcha" moment when you comment on how great they taste.

Stay on "tapas" of your portion size

For those who don't know, tapas is a Spanish term that basically covers any variety of small dishes. Popular in bars, cafes and the like, dining tapas-style has become a big thing in the US, where people want to enjoy flavors without committing to a giant portion of food.

So, why not tackle Thanksgiving tapas-style? Instead of piling mounds of starch and gravy on one hubcap-sized serving platter, plan on enjoying your meal via small plates, enjoying all the foods individually.

Unless you're dining with a group of linebackers, there will be plenty to eat all day. Take your time and savor the flavor.

Don't immediately hit the gym

Give yourself an hour to get the digestion process going before exercising. Who knows if this really helps, but we wanted to make you feel better about skipping your Thursday workout. It's okay. You don't like "leg day" anyway.

(Yeah, this was the ".5" tip.)

Avoid the late-night snack

This is a tough one, because some of the best holiday meals are those late-night sandwiches after everyone goes home, allowing you to fully enjoy one last piece of pie or lukewarm turkey without distractions.

The problem with these midnight snacks is how the short moments of bliss can turn into an unwanted stomach-turning event. Usually in the middle of the night, when you should be dreaming of Black Friday shopping and half-priced TVs.

Of course if you decide to throw caution to the wind and pass on these simple indigestion avoidance tips, there are plenty of FSA-eligible over-the-counter remedies like Pepto-Bismol and Zantac.

No matter how you approach your dietary planning, best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, from everyone at FSAstore.com!

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