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:
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.
Valentine's Day -- some see it as a "Hallmark holiday." Others see it as the most love-filled day of the year. But, no matter your opinion on the day itself, most Americans still like to cozy up and enjoy the romance in the air.
Maybe we don't discuss love and affection much around here. But then again, maybe we should. Let's take a closer look at some surprisingly eligible products that can help warm up a chilly Valentine's Day, while also helping you stay healthy and happy on the most romantic night of the year.
Set the right mood…
Since dinners, drinks and movies aren't FSA-eligible, let's assume the night goes well with your significant other, and things will head back to the homefront. What better way to ease tensions and relax each other than through a gentle, romantic massage?
Now, to be clear, massage therapy isn't FSA-eligible. However, items like the Kanjō Memory acuPressure Mat can help turn your home massage into something entirely more comfortable, relaxing, and even therapeutic.
This mat offers a simple, yet effective at-home solution for neck and back pain. Taken from the ancient Chinese methodologies used in acupuncture, this high-density memory foam mat targets acupressure points to reduce pain throughout the body.
No one wants to start a relaxing evening with tense shoulders or nagging pain points. Let your FSA help you boost your massage game, and ease your aches, all in one product.
And if the night progresses further…
Let's start off with some very good news -- condoms are FSA-eligible. We can't say for certain where your evenings may go, but we also can't stress enough how important safety is for whatever you might have planned.
Condoms are an effective contraceptive when used correctly, which is great for family planning. But they are also one of most effective ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This alone is a great reason for everyone to have condoms on hand if the night heats up.
Ensure the good feelings last until morning…
It doesn't matter if you're new friends or married for 35 years, few things will kill the romance more than snoring. Thankfully, anti-snore guards and remedies are FSA-eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a physician. If you or your partner have a medical condition that leads to snoring, and a doctor has recognized how it will be used to treat your specific medical condition, your FSA can help.
For less-intense cases of snoring (maybe from eating too many chocolates, or sipping too much champagne), you should also consider a simple moisturizing nasal spray, which helps free up dry airways, so your breathing is smoother, and your sleep is more restful… for everyone in the room.
No matter how you plan on spending your holiday, consider the above tips when planning your evenings. Be safe. Be confident. Be romantic. And #getflexsmart by using your FSA to enhance and improve every part of your well-being.
Tax-free healthcare spending requires diligence to manage correctly. But that doesn't mean it needs to be difficult! Keeping clear records of how much of your pay goes toward insurance costs, doctor's visit deductibles, and costs of prescription medications, health supplies and over-the-counter products, can go a long way.
What's important is that you know how much your health spending impacts your overall budget. We'll help you can get ahead of your health spending with these organization tips.
Start with a budget
The easiest way to keep track of your healthcare spending is to set a monthly budget. Take your monthly income and subtract your major expenses such as housing, utilities and food, but don't forget to include your health spending. The key to a monthly budget is to think of it as a dashboard view of where your money is going.
One detail to remember with a monthly budget is setting a budget at the beginning of a month is really a projection on how your money will be spent. At the end of the month you should compare your projection to the actual spending in each category.
From month to month you will find trends on utilities rising and falling with the seasons, food and entertainment spending shifting around and even changes in your healthcare spending. A monthly budget will also allow you to see the impact of unforeseen events on your spending, such as a visit to an emergency clinic, or some unexpected guests coming into town.
You can keep a monthly budget on paper, or even through a spreadsheet template, but there is a wide range of free budgeting software apps that can be found with a quick web search. This personal budgeting software will be able to offer graphical charts and trackers to make it easy to see exactly how much of your spending is going toward healthcare.
Keep up with FSA-eligible spending
Another benefit of keeping a monthly budget that includes health spending is you can get more detailed and track your FSA-eligible spending by category.
Why is this important? FSA dollars are use-it-or-lose-it, so it is best to know how much you have available so that you spend those dollars the best way possible before your yearly deadline. And having a better understanding of your annual healthcare spending will also influence how much you can (and should) elect during your open enrollment.
To help you establish and set a budget (and to see how much you can save on your medical needs using FSA dollars), we have an FSA calculator that can help you estimate your health spending for the year so you can make informed decisions, and take maximum advantage of your flex spending dollars.
While each use case varies, we estimate that by using tax-free dollars, you can essentially save up to 30% on your eligible medical, pharmaceutical, dental and eye care costs. The only challenge is figuring out how much money to set aside.
Groundhog Day is a yearly event where Americans turn to a giant rodent to predict the end of winter. It's also a popular movie starring Bill Murray in which his character re-lived the same day over and over, until he got the details right. Let's focus on the latter.
Because FSAs are a great way to save on medical costs by using tax-free money, the last thing you want to do is relive the same mixups you made with your spending in previous years. Maybe you spent your money too quickly. Maybe you left funds in your account and lost them. No matter the issue, balanced yearly spending comes down to having a plan.
Take a look back
A great method to plan for this year is to look back at your expenses from 2017:
- What product(s) contributed most to your FSA spending?
- Did you find yourself short of an FSA-eligible product when you most needed it?
- What product(s) did you run out of because it wasn't in the usual FSA purchase list?
- Did you have a surprise expense, such as a medical emergency or a newly diagnosed condition?
- Did you end up buying FSA-eligible products or services with post-tax dollars?
Answering these questions will provide a head start to where you want to spend your FSA contributions, as well as when you want to spend those dollars.
Take a look around
When putting together your budget, be sure to leave about 10-20% of your funds aside to cover unexpected medical expenditures. Whether this is the cost of medication, an emergency room visit, or a trip to a specialist, you'll have additional breathing room by using tax-free funds.
After all, the 2018 flu season has been one of the worst in decades, so it's good to get ahead of the bug by putting a little money aside.
On that note, if there's one expense you should factor into your budget for 2018, it's an appointment with your primary care doctor to get a full assessment of your well-being. With a better understanding of your health, you'll have a much better idea of what your medical spending will be over the course of the year.
Take a look ahead
The best way to avoid losing your FSA dollars at the end of the year is to create a budget that outlines how much you have in the account to spend, as well as the expenses you know will be needed over the course of the year.
When planning your FSA spending, you might have the option to roll over up to $500 into the next program period, as well as a 2 ½ month grace period to move into next year's plan from this year's contributions.
On the other side of the coin, even with this flexibility, you might want to leave wiggle room in the account for unexpected mishaps that might be eligible for FSA spending. This includes any FSA-eligible services you might need, and keeping your medicine cabinet supplied with essentials, such as first-aid products.
The key takeaway is to not be like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." Though no one can predict the future, planning your FSA spending can help you avoid reliving the same situations again.
If you are like many people with FSAs, the end of the year deadline can bring with it a mad rush to spend your leftover funds, so you don't lose them. This tax-free money is a great way to cover qualified health-related spending, while enjoying savings on taxable income. But waiting to spend right before the deadline might just lead to losing the funds if you're not careful.
For 2018, use these simple tips to plan ahead with your FSAs. As you'll learn, they don't have to be a year-end burden -- in fact, they're opportunities to save on the products you need, with the tax-free money you've already set aside year-round.
Make a spending plan your New Year's resolution
If you head into a new tax and employment year understanding what your paycheck contributions will be for your FSA account, you already have a key piece of planning in place for knowing how much you have available to spend in any given month.
The FSA contribution limit in 2018 will be $2,650, which comes out to about $221 per month.
If your medical expenses are straightforward, here are two easy rules of thumb for choosing an FSA amount:
- If your out-of-pocket medical bills typically amount to $221 a month or more — or roughly $2,650 a year — consider contributing the maximum to your FSA.
- If you don't contribute the maximum, consider adding $200-300 per month.
- If your medical expenses are lower, calculating the total of your estimated copayments, dental and vision expenses for next year should cover your needs.
And you probably don't want to try and zero-out your FSA funds on a monthly basis so your account does have some money available for unexpected expenses. Like when your entire extended family catches a seasonal flu … at the same time … and requires a huge amount of over-the-counter decongestants.
What you can do is take stock of FSA-eligible items you know you purchase regularly from basic medicine cabinet restocking or maybe just a replacement of reading glasses that get lost like clockwork.
The goal with a spending plan is to prepare regular purchases in advance on a regular basis – maybe monthly, maybe every other month or even just quarterly – which figure into your regular FSA fund contribution levels, while leaving some room for unexpected emergencies.
Avoiding the end-of-year crunch
This way you will be consistently spending that money that has the yearly use-it-or-lose-it deadline on items you know you'll be needing throughout the year anyway. Doing so will avoid a total crunch at the end of next year and will keep your contributions going toward FSA-eligible products.
Anyone making that end-of-year mass purchase right now is probably thinking back on the number of items that were bought out of pocket that could have been purchased using FSA funds with a little more planning.
In fact, if you're scrambling to spend this year's FSA contributions before the deadline hits, once that task is complete take a few more minutes and put together a spending plan for next year.
You've already put thought into what you regularly need and done the research on different products that are FSA-eligible. There are probably a few in the mix you didn't even realize qualified for FSA spending. Check out our eligibility list for a complete listing of FSA-eligible products and services.
It's your money. Use it to ensure continued health and wellness for 2018 and beyond.
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!
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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:
- If you use any medical devices with replaceable parts, make sure you have all your required supplies. For example, blood glucose test strips or breast milk storage pouches.
- Why not get a spare pair of reading glasses?
- Need some help with family planning? Fertility testing kits and condoms are both FSA-eligible.
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.
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!
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.
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.
No matter how you approach your dietary planning, best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, from everyone at FSAstore.com!
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