5 Alternative Menstrual Products to Tampons and Pads

For those who menstruate, period products are an unavoidable, and costly, monthly expense. According to the Office on Women's Health, periods can last three to seven days per month—from age 12 to 52. Between birth control, tampons, sanitary pads, pain killers, heating pads, and other necessities, you could easily spend more than $18,000 on period products throughout your life, according to a Huffington Post report.

With thousands of dollars on the line—you may wonder if it's time to explore alternatives to tampons and pads. The feminine hygiene products business is worth $6.2 billion in the United States alone—so it's easy to see why companies are so eager to push new options. If you're struggling to figure out which new period products are best—keep reading.

Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups are a popular alternative to tampons and pads. With the right care, you may reuse menstrual cups from six months to ten years. These reusable feminine hygiene products are more than eco-friendly; menstrual cups may also save you more money over time.

One of the biggest downsides to menstrual cups is the hefty $25 to $40 upfront cost—and you may not find the correct size right away. Even with a few of the wrong purchases, though, you may still save money.

Depending on how much you spend on disposable tampons or sanitary pads every month, you could break-even faster than you may expect—and if you buy a menstrual cup that lasts for several years, you could save hundreds of dollars.

Although you may wear a menstrual cup for up to twelve hours—the product may be tough to insert or remove. Also, it may be messier than using a tampon or sanitary pad. Your body may not tolerate a menstrual cup, either—and it may cause vaginal irritation.

Menstrual discs

Another newer alternative to tampons and sanitary pads is menstrual discs. This disposable period product has been getting attention for a few good reasons. You may get twelve glorious hours of leak-free period protection—and you can wear it while having penetrative sex. Some manufacturers also claim the product may cut back on period cramps.

Depending on the brand, a menstrual disc may absorb up to five or six teaspoons of blood—which is equal to about five regular or three super tampons. This makes them appropriate for those with a heavy flow—but you may still prefer to change them more often.

One of the biggest downsides of menstrual discs is the cost. Although they are more absorbent than tampons—you may spend more money on a month's supply.

The other con is most menstrual discs are disposable—which means you may not cut down on monthly waste. If you prefer a reusable option, you may want to compare menstrual cup options. There are some—like the Intima Ziggy Cup, for example—with a design that is a lot like a disc.

Period underwear

Period underwear—a.k.a. menstrual underwear or period panties—is another period product to replace tampons and sanitary pads. This earth-friendly option is washable and reusable. It feels like regular underwear—while still being absorbent. Some brands also say they can control moisture and period odors.

One of the biggest advantages of period underwear is the ability to save money. Although it won't last for several years—like some menstrual cup brands—you can keep it as long as any other type of underwear. For example, Thinx says you may use their product for up to two years.

The downside is you may need to buy more than one pair to last your entire cycle without daily washes. You can expect to pay between $25 to $40 per pair, depending on the brand.

Another perk is sustainability. If reducing waste is important to you, you may consider switching to period underwear. Each pair may absorb two to four tampons of blood—which means a lot fewer tampons or sanitary pads going into the landfill every month. Period underwear may be less convenient than tampons, though. If you're traveling, you may prefer the ease of disposable products.

Period underwear also offers gender-neutral options—like period boy shorts or period boxer briefs. These products may cause less body dysphoria for gender non-conforming or transgender folks.

Reusable cloth pads

Reusable cloth pads are another sustainable period product. These pads—which may come in more than one piece—work like disposable sanitary pads. The biggest differences are you may snap them into place—along with the ability to wash and reuse them.

There are different sized reusable cloth pads—depending on your flow—and you should expect to change them every two to six hours. Some folks may even use them as back-up protection for tampons. These period products may be more breathable and flexible than disposable sanitary pads—but you still won't be able to swim with them.

Although one of the biggest advantages may be the ability to save money over time, you may need to buy a bunch to get started—which could be costly. For example, one pack of three may not be enough to get you through your cycle and could cost almost $40.

Another perk is skipping the waste of tampons and disposable sanitary pads. While they won't last as long as one of the more durable menstrual cups—you will still prevent more period products from going into the landfill.

Menstrual sponges

Menstrual sponges—a.k.a. sea sponges or sanitary sponges—are another eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. You may reuse these products for six to twelve months—and they have become more popular among folks looking to cut back on waste.

The problem is, menstrual sponges aren't federally-regulated—or a top pick among medical professionals. In fact, some gynecologists urge those who menstruate to avoid them. Menstrual sponges may have unwanted particles—like yeast, mold, sand, and grit. These period products may also have bacteria that could cause toxic shock syndrome.

If you're eager to find a more sustainable period product, there are much safer options to choose from. You may avoid waste with other products on this list—including menstrual cups, period underwear, or reusable cloth pads.

The best alternative menstrual product to tampons and pads

There are plenty of reasons to explore alternatives to tampons and pads. Whether you want to save money, create less waste, or try something new—there is no shortage of new period products. The problem is, some feminine care products may be too expensive to experiment with—or continue using long-term.

Luckily, new legislation has made it more affordable. Thanks to the CARES Act, you now have more ways to spend money in your health savings account (HSA) or your flexible spending account (FSA). The new law allows you to use money from either account to pay for menstrual products.

Since your money goes into both accounts pre-tax, you're getting a discount for every dollar you spend on menstrual products. This may offer more wiggle room in your budget to explore new period products—and see which one you want to include in your monthly menstruation routine.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.

6 Types of Period Products: Know Your Options

Let's face it—there is nothing cheap about period products. Those who menstruate may have an average of 450 periods over their lifetime, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Care Professionals. And with the average period lasting two to seven days, you may easily spend $1,000 (or more!) on a lifetime supply of period products.

Luckily, lawmakers recently voted to make these basic necessities more affordable. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed the $2 trillion CARES Act in March. This landmark piece of legislation includes a provision for menstrual products—which finally makes them health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) eligible.

Here's what to know about the best period care products on the market—and how to decide which one may be right for your menstrual flow.


Tampons are one of the best-known types of menstrual products. Made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two, tampons are disposable products with a cylindrical shape. You may insert tampons into your vagina with a cardboard or plastic applicator—or by using your fingers.

There is a range of tampons on the market—including light to heavy flow—or scented and unscented options. You may also buy tampons made from organic cotton.

If your body tolerates tampons well, you won't be able to feel them. You can take part in normal activities while wearing on, like swimming or team sports, and tampons are easy and convenient to transport.

The biggest downside of tampons is the potential for toxic shock syndrome, which has the potential to be life-threatening. But you may avoid trouble with less absorbent tampons—and by changing them more frequently. According to the Food and Drug Administration, you should change your tampon every four to eight hours.

Another downside of tampons is the high ongoing expense. A box of tampons may cost between $6 to $13 per box—and depending on your flow, the product may create a significant amount of waste every month.

Sanitary pads

Sanitary pads—a.k.a. sanitary napkins, menstrual pads, panty liners, or pads—are the most popular type of menstrual product. Made with natural or synthetic fibers, this disposable product may be cotton or rayon. Sanitary pads also come in a variety of thicknesses, depending on your flow.

You may wear a sanitary pad externally—stuck to the inside of your underwear—which is a big difference from tampons. One major benefit: you don't have to worry about getting toxic shock syndrome, which makes them a great alternative to tampons.

If you have a heavier period, you may feel more comfortable wearing a sanitary pad—and some folks may wear one as a back-up for tampons on heavier period days. Sanitary pads may also be a good option if tampons may cause irritation or dryness.

One of the biggest downsides of sanitary pads is the ongoing expense. A box of sanitary pads may cost between $6 to $10, depending on the number of pads and absorbency. You may have to replace your sanitary pad every few hours—which, like tampons, creates a lot of waste.

Menstrual cups

If you're looking for ways to save money and to create less waste, you may want to try a menstrual cup. So, what is a menstrual cup? Made of silicone, latex, rubber, or elastomer—menstrual cups may be reusable—and come in a variety of sizes.

The biggest advantage of a reusable menstrual cup is it may last for up to ten years. You can wear a menstrual cup for up to twelve hours—and it won't stop you from any normal activities.

One major downside of these new period products is the initial cost. While you may spend money less over time, there's a bigger upfront expense. You should expect to spend anywhere from $25 to $40. Another negative is menstrual cups may offer less protection—and it may not be enough for those with a heavier flow.

Period underwear

Another reusable option to consider is period underwear—a.k.a. period panties or menstrual underwear. What are period panties? These garments are different from regular underwear because they have multiple layers. This makes period underwear more absorbent than conventional tampons or sanitary pads. Some folks use them as back-up period protection—particularly at night.

The biggest downside of period underwear is the upfront cost. You may spend $25 to $40 per pair—and you may need several pairs to make it through your period every month. The good news is you may save more money over time—and create less waste from disposable tampons or pads. Another con: Period underwear may absorb two tampons of blood—but you still have to change them on a regular basis. This may be inconvenient—and potentially messy—when you are away from home.

You may also buy other versions of period underwear: period boy shorts or period boxer briefs. These may products cut back on body dysphoria for transgender or gender non-conforming folks.

Reusable cloth pads

A third wallet and eco-friendly option—reusable cloth pads—may also be worth a look. Reusable cloth pads, which usually come in two pieces, work like disposable sanitary pads. The biggest difference is you can wash and use them again.

The biggest pro of reusable cloth pads is the ability to save money over time. You may also create a lot less waste, as you need to change disposable sanitary pads every few hours. Reusable cloth pads may also be less bulky than disposable pads. This could make them more flexible, breathable, and less visible through clothing.

One major disadvantage is the initial cost, though. Reusable cloth pads may cost between $20 to $30—and like period underwear—you may need several pairs to make it through your period. Also, depending on the color, you may need to wash them fast—otherwise, you may wind up with period stains.

Menstrual disks

Menstrual discs are round, flexible rings that sit at the base of your cervix and collect blood in a soft bag. Made of medical-grade polymer, you may insert a menstrual disc with your fingers—and it will mold to your shape. You may wear this single-use period product for up to twelve hours.

One of the biggest perks of a menstrual disc is you may have penetrative sexual intercourse while wearing one. This is a big difference from a menstrual cup—which you must remove before engaging in the same activity.

Menstrual discs are also less likely to slip, like a disposable or reusable sanitary pad. This makes it a better option for high-impact exercise. Some companies also claim to reduce some period-related pain—but reviews are mixed.

The biggest downside to menstrual discs is the price. It may cost up to $11 to $15 for 8 discs—which is more costly than conventional tampons. Another negative is there is messier removal compared to menstrual cups.

Which period product is right for you?

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the feminine care products on the market—especially when few of them are cheap. (Thanks, tampon tax!) Fortunately, you now have the option to use your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to pay for them.

Now that you can use pre-tax HSA or FSA money to buy menstrual products, it's like you're getting a discount on each item you buy. This may make it more affordable to try some of the more costly, reusable period products—like period underwear or a menstrual cup—which may save you more money in the long-run.

As you try new period feminine hygiene products, be sure to save your receipts for tax time. Although these items are now qualified medical expenses—you still need to keep track of FSA and HSA reimbursements.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.
Living Well

The Best Feminine Hygiene Wash for You

Few things cause more embarrassment than issues with your vagina. Whether you're reeling from vaginal discomfort, itch, or odor, you may feel too ashamed to talk about it, which may stop you from visiting a healthcare provider. The problem is, this can lead to an array of do-it-yourself solutions—including feminine hygiene products—which could lead to further complications.

To make matters worse, the feminine hygiene industry represents billions of dollars in sales in the United States. You may notice dozens of feminine hygiene products while walking down the aisles of your local drugstore and wonder if you should try one. But you can protect your wallet by understanding some of the basics. Here's what you should know about feminine hygiene—and which products may be right for you.

Feminine hygiene 101

Let's start with some of the basics of your anatomy and vaginal hygiene.

First, you should know the difference between your vagina and vulva. Your vagina is the inner muscular tract from your cervix to your vaginal opening. Your vulva is all the external parts—your inner and outer labia, clitoris, clitoral hood, the vestibule (around the vaginal opening), and the urethral opening.

To keep your vagina and vulva healthy, you need to maintain your pH and bacterial balance. Your body uses estrogen to keep your vagina healthy by encouraging lactobacilli to grow. These bacteria keep the pH balance of your vagina slightly acidic—which may protect your vagina from microorganisms that can cause disease. Your vagina may also have yeast but the acidity usually keeps the amount under control (ACOG).

Is my vaginal discharge normal?

Probably. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), your vagina produces a natural discharge at puberty. You will have vaginal discharge every month and it changes throughout your menstrual cycle. The discharge keeps your genitals clean by removing dead cells from the walls of your vagina.

Your vaginal discharge may be normal if it's clear or white—and it shouldn't have a noticeable odor. If the color, amount, odor, or consistency of your discharge changes, it may be a sign that something is off. A strong odor may be the sign of an infection that needs medical treatment. While it may be tempting, you shouldn't try to cover up strong odors with any type of spray, deodorant, or douche (ACOG).

How to identify and treat a vaginal infection

If your vaginal pH balance gets disrupted, it may cause an infection. The two most common types of vaginal infections are bacterial vaginosis (BV) or a yeast infection.

Bacterial vaginosis happens when too much bacteria grow in your vagina. You may identify bacterial vaginosis if you have more discharge than usual or a strong "fishy" odor. A doctor may prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection—which you may take by mouth or insert into your vagina.

Similarly, yeast infections happen when there is too much yeast in your vagina. Some of the causes for yeast infections may be lubricants, spermicides, some antibiotics (which may kill too much of your good bacteria), or being pregnant. The most common sign of a yeast infection is when your vulva burns or itches. A doctor may treat yeast infections with a medication—either taken orally or vaginally.

You may also experience vulvovaginal changes during different stages of your life—like during pregnancy and menopause. When you are pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone may shift—which can make vaginal infections more common. There may be some vaginal changes after giving birth, as well.

You may also experience changes to your vagina and urinary tract during menopause. These changes may make your vagina dryer and thinner and may cause discomfort. Luckily, you can explore a variety of treatment options with your healthcare provider (ACOG).

Do I need to wash my vagina?

No, you don't need to wash the inside of your vagina because it produces its own natural discharge throughout the month—kind of like a self-cleaning oven. You do need to wash your vulva, though. As a reminder, this includes your inner and outer labia, clitoris, clitoral hood, the vestibule (around the vaginal opening), and the urethral opening.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you don't need to wash your vulva with anything more than warm water. Adding something else—like anti-bacterial soap or chemicals—has the ability to disrupt your vagina's natural pH balance.

Should I use feminine hygiene wash?

Feminine hygiene products may include feminine hygiene washes, intimate washes, feminine wipes, douches, or deodorants—and the short answer is no, you shouldn't use them.

Several studies have found douching—which involves flushing the vagina with water or cleaners—may be particularly harmful. By disrupting your vagina's natural pH, you may be more vulnerable to other infections, like sexually transmitted infections (STI). This may increase your risk of getting cervical cancer or pelvic inflammatory disease.

The same study found intimate washes may be risky, as well. These products may increase your risk of bacterial infections by 3.5 times and urinary tract infections (UTI) by over 2 times. Unfortunately, intimate cleansing wipes may cause the same problem by preventing the growth of healthy bacteria (Medical News Today).

How to practice good feminine hygiene

Are you noticing a vaginal odor that isn't from a vaginal infection? It may be coming from your inner thighs and skin folds—not your vagina. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following intimate hygiene tips to keep your vagina and vulva clean and healthy:

  • Skip any type of deodorant, perfume, gels, or powder in the vagina.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid tight-fitting underwear, pantyhose, girdles, or pants—especially at night when you are going to sleep.
  • White cotton underwear is the healthiest option.
  • Use a mild detergent and wash your underwear separate from your other clothing.
  • Consider using a menstrual cup or tampons during your period and change each one frequently to prevent leakage.

Good feminine hygiene and sex

Vaginal odors may be particularly troublesome in the bedroom. If you're worried about vaginal odor while having sex, don't use a feminine hygiene wash or start douching. Instead, consider taking a shower with warm water first. If you're experiencing vaginal irritation or abnormal discharge, consider using a condom and making an appointment with your healthcare provider.

After sex, you should try to urinate to avoid getting a urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly if you are prone to contracting them (The Mayo Clinic). If you use sex toys, make sure to clean the part that touched your body with hot water and liquid antibacterial soap—or follow the manufacturer's specific cleaning instructions.

Keep your feminine hygiene simple

When it comes to good feminine hygiene, there's one good rule of thumb to remember—less is more. You don't need costly feminine hygiene washes, perfumes, or deodorants to clean your vagina and vulva. If you're experiencing unpleasant odors, these products may only make your problems worse. Instead, you may keep your vagina and vulva clean with daily showering and cleaning your genitals with warm water. If you start noticing something is off—like more discharge, itching, or a strong odor—speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. While your issue may be common, you may need a doctor to prescribe a medication to clear up a vaginal infection.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner™ Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.

Living Well

Tampons Vs Pads: Which is Right for You

Which is better: tampons vs. pads? Folks have been asking for years—and the debate may continue as new menstrual products emerge. You may pick a side early in your menstrual journey or make the switch many years down the road. The problem is there are many factors at play that can make the decision tougher than you expect.

The good news is it's now cheaper to try all the different options on the market. In March, the CARES Act finally made menstrual products FSA and HSA-eligible. This means you can now use pre-tax dollars to pay for things like tampons, sanitary pads, menstrual cups, and more. Whether you're starting out—or want to make a switch—we have covered the most popular product options. Here's how to decide which is right for you.


As you're comparing menstrual products, sanitary pads—which stick to the inside of your underwear—may be the first one to try. Pads are made with natural and synthetic fibers, including rayon and cotton. They are the most popular menstrual product option, according to a FiveThirtyEight report—and it's easy to see why.

If you have a heavier period, you may consider sanitary pads for more protection. Some women also use them as a back-up with tampons. You may prefer sanitary pads if you find tampons uncomfortable or hate to insert them. There are different pad thicknesses to choose from and you won't have to worry about toxic shock syndrome.

Although sanitary pads are the top option for many women, there are some cons to consider. They may be visible through some clothing—and are tough to wear with certain types of underwear. Sanitary pads may shift when you move and you can't swim while wearing one. Depending on your flow, you may have to replace your sanitary pad every few hours, which may create a lot of waste.


Tampons, which reign second in popularity, are cotton pads you insert into the vagina with an applicator or your fingers. Depending on your flow, there are different tampon sizes, from light to heavy.

There are many perks to using tampons. If you insert it the right way, you won't be able to feel it. The product isn't visible through your clothing and you don't have to worry about it shifting. The product is also smaller than a sanitary pad, which makes it easier to fit into a purse or your pocket. Another plus: you can swim while wearing a tampon.

Unfortunately, the biggest downside is a scary one: the potential for toxic shock syndrome. While it doesn't happen often—around 0.8 to 3.4 per 100,000 people in the United States—it can be life-threatening. You may avoid the risk of getting toxic shock syndrome by using lower absorbency tampons and changing them often.

Another downside is tampons can be uncomfortable—and can cause irritation or dryness. Tampons are also a less environmentally-friendly option with millions going into the landfill every year.

Menstrual cups

Fun fact: according to MedicalNewsToday, menstrual cups have been around since 1932. L.J. Goodard patented a bell-shaped receptacle that women could use to insert into their vagina to collect menstrual blood. Today's menstrual cups look similar—but are made of medical-grade silicone, latex, rubber, or elastomer.

If you're trying to cut back on waste, you may look for reusable menstrual cups. These products come in a variety of sizes and are easy to clean. Best of all, a reusable menstrual cup may last for up to 10 years.

Some more perks: you may wear a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours. Once you have inserted a menstrual cup, you won't feel it—and you can wear it while swimming or having sex. It won't impact your outfit choices, your vagina's PH, and it may prevent odors.

There are some downsides, though. Although you may save money in the long-term, there is a high upfront cost of $25 to $40. Menstrual cups can also be messy—and may not be enough protection for those with heavy periods. They can be tough to insert, and if you're not careful, you could dislodge an IUD.

Period underwear

Another option that has been growing in popularity is period underwear—a.k.a. menstrual underwear or period panties. These reusable garments may absorb up to a couple of tampons or sanitary pads worth of blood.

While you may spend more upfront, you may use them longer, which will save you money over time. Plus, you won't be contributing to waste like tampons or sanitary pads. They may be enough for a light or medium flow—and some women use them as nighttime back-up protection.

One of the biggest downsides is the upfront cost—which is more than regular underwear—and they may not be enough for heavy periods. You also may have to spend more time washing period underwear. This could make them a less convenient option.

While many menstrual products market themselves to women, there's also a growing list of gender-neutral options. These gender-neutral products may cause less body dysphoria for folks who menstruate but don't identify as female. For example, some companies have started selling period boy shorts or boxer briefs.

Menstrual disks

Menstrual disks are a newer disposable menstrual product option. According to the University of Texas at Austin, the disks are made of medical-grade polymer—and mold to your shape. You can insert the disk with your fingers. It rests at the bottom of your cervix where it collects your menstrual fluid into a soft bag.

You may still have sex while wearing a menstrual disk, which is a unique perk. There's also less of a chance the product will slip, making it an ideal option for wearing during exercise. The biggest downside is the price. A box of eight to twelve disks may cost between $10 to $20 and you may use eight disks for every cycle. It's a more expensive option than tampons disposable sanitary pads.

Reusable cloth pads

If you're on the market for reusable menstrual products, you may also check out cloth sanitary pads. These two-piece products work the same way disposable sanitary pads do. The biggest difference is the ability to wash and reuse them.

One of the upsides of reusable cloth pads is they may be cheaper than buying disposable sanitary pads over time. They also may be more flexible, breathable, and less bulky. You may also pick reusable pads if you're looking to reduce waste.

Some of the potential downsides of cloth sanitary napkins are the bigger upfront costs and the inconvenience of washing them. If you don't wash cloth sanitary pads quickly enough, they may stain.

Tampons vs pads: which is right for you

When it comes to the tampons vs pads debate, there are plenty of strong arguments for either side. There are also fans of other options like menstrual cups, period underwear, discs, sponges, and more. Before selecting your go-to period product, you may want to try some of the different options yourself.

As the tampon tax continues to spike the price of these products, you may be looking for ways to save. Luckily, the CARES Act has made it easier than ever to use your pre-tax FSA money on menstrual products. Your final decision may depend on cost, convenience, and comfort—which may be easier to gauge after you have tested each one.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is a Nashville-based personal finance writer and Candidate for Certified Financial Planner Certification. She teaches financial literacy with Junior Achievement and writes for Lifehacker, Business Insider, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. You can follow her on Twitter at @KateDore.

Living Well

Real Money: Is dental insurance worth the cost?

For many of us, paying for a filling or root canal can be painful. And if you're like me — one of the 23% of folks without dental insurance — going to the dentist costs a small fortune.

Without any issues, I shelled out $380 for dental care last year. That's $155 for two cleanings, plus an extra $70 for x-rays. Other than a small gum graft and a couple of cavities, I've avoided any major dental problems.

Based on my history of "good teeth," I've skipped paying for dental insurance myself for 11 of the past 12 years. But what happens if things get worse? I did some research to find out when dental insurance actually pays off.

What most dental insurance covers

According to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP), most policies cover the following areas:

  • Preventative care (cleaning and routine visits)
  • Restorative care (crowns or fillings)
  • Endodontics (root canals)
  • Oral surgery (minor surgeries and tooth removal)
  • Orthodontics (braces)
  • Periodontics (scaling or root planning)
  • Prosthodontics (bridges or dentures)

If you have an individual policy, there's typically a one-year waiting period for the last three. Also, you may need an extra rider to have orthodontics coverage.

How much your provider will pay

Like other types of insurance, it's rare for a policy to cover everything for the more expensive procedures. Here's what they usually pay for:

  • Preventative care - Most plans cover 100%. This usually includes cleanings, oral evaluations, x-rays, and sealants for certain age groups.
  • Basic procedures - You can expect plans to cover 60-80% for basic procedures. This includes office visits, extractions, fillings, periodontal treatment, and root canals.
  • Major procedures - Many plans only cover 50%. Bridges, crowns, dentures, inlays are all major procedures. It's possible your plan may put some basic procedures — like root canals — into this category too.

Only half of dental PPOs will cover more than $1,500 per year. The other half cap annual benefits below $1,500.

How much dental insurance costs

If you have dental insurance, it's likely through your company's group plan. Premiums range from $14.06 to $30.57 per month or $168.72 to $366.84 per year. Family plans are more expensive — ranging from $27.08 to $56.73 per month — or $324.96 to $680.76 per year.

Unfortunately, there isn't recent data on individual dental plans. When I searched my Marketplace, individual dental insurance plans ranged from $13.19 to $46.57 per month.

Analyzing my own dental plan options

When it comes to healthcare, I stay with the same doctors for as long as I can. When I searched Nashville's Marketplace, only two plans covered my dentist. The monthly premiums for these plans are $26.03 and $32.79.

One first covers preventative care at 70-90% The second pays 100% for the same services. Both plans have an annual limit of $1,000. Choosing the more expensive plan means paying $13 more per year. The benefit is 60-80% savings on basic services and 50% savings on major services. Insurance kicks in after a $50 deductible for both of plans.

I am unlikely to use basic or major services, so I have skipped dental insurance again for 2020. I will pay my $380 out-of-pocket with my health savings account.

Is dental insurance actually worth it?

In an ideal world, a crystal ball could predict your future health care needs. But reality looks a lot different. You need to consider a plan's annual premiums and what you get for paying them. Be realistic about your upcoming needs.

The policy's annual limit and how much it covers may help you decide. It's difficult to predict the future of your teeth, so you may need to rely on your dental history. Based on your past experience, you can assess how risky it may be to skip insurance.

Oral care needs


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.


Real Money: How to navigate Healthcare.gov when you're expecting

Few surprises are more exciting than learning your family is pregnant. There are endless calls to make, photos to share, and parties to plan. Once the thrill of the news settles down, the reality of your growing family may shift your attention to the expense.

As one of my colleagues covered last week, having a baby isn't always easy, especially without an employer to help cover the bill. So, let's revisit the topic for new parents. Thankfully, there are steps you can take now to soften the financial sting later.

Maternity care is covered

If you're expecting and don't have health insurance there's good news. Because of the Affordable Care Act, you're covered even with a pre-existing condition. This means insurers can't turn you away for being pregnant. Open enrollment is officially underway, so now is the perfect time to sign up through Healthcare.gov or your state's exchange.

Other new parent needs

How a lower deductible plan pays off

All Marketplace plans cover pregnancy and having a baby. The problem is, each plan's coverage is different. The only way to find out specifics is by digging into the plan's Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC).

A couple of bronze plans with similar monthly premiums could have different out-of-pocket expenses. In my case, both plans have a $7,900 limit on how much you will pay out-of-pocket. But there are major differences before you get there.

One plan covers 100% of services after hitting their $7,900 deductible. The other's deductible is a little lower at $7,000, but you're still on the hook for 50% of services after that. As you can imagine, you may owe more if any part of your pregnancy doesn't go as planned. Or you pick out-of-network providers.

To cut back on costly surprises, consider paying higher monthly premiums for a lower deductible. Because maternity care is so unpredictable, you may reach the deductible quickly. If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to read through our ultimate guide to open enrollment.

Stick with providers in your network

One of the perks of shopping for health insurance on Healthcare.gov, is you can filter plans by specific doctors and hospitals. Knowing who you want to see and where you want to go now may save you from heartache later. When making appointments, always confirm specialists are covered — even when they work at an in-network hospital.

You can change your plan after the baby is born

Once the baby's here, you have the choice to stick with your current plan or pick a new one. That's because giving birth kicks you into a Special Enrollment Period. If you prefer a plan with lower premiums and a higher deductible, this is your opportunity to make a change. When you give birth, the clock starts ticking, and you have 60 days to decide.


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.


Flex-Ed: Staying ahead of your year-end FSA deadlines

You had the best intentions when you put money into your flexible spending account (FSA). But as the calendar winds down (and don't be afraid, but November is already here!) the holidays can disrupt your to-do list, and that money could easily go to waste. Luckily, there's still plenty of time to make smart year-end FSA spending decisions. We'll cover how to make the most of your money — while avoiding IRS scrutiny.

Know these key dates

When it comes to maximizing your FSA, knowledge is power. Start by asking your plan administrator for details about your key FSA deadlines (and know the difference between them!). These may include:

  • Rollover - If your company offers a rollover, you'll have an opportunity to keep $500 in your account from the previous year.
  • Grace period - Some employers offer up to 2½ extra months after the annual deadline to use your FSA money. If the annual deadline is December 31, a grace period extends your deadline to March 15.
  • Run-out period - This is your deadline to submit receipts from the previous year. Most companies offer a 90-day run-off period after the deadline. If your plan's deadline is December 31, you'll have until March 31 to be reimbursed.

Before crafting your FSA spending plan, it's critical to know these deadlines. Your company could offer a rollover, grace period, or hard deadline on December 31. Once you know your plan's deadlines, set more than one reminder to avoid surprises.

Where can you spend your FSA money?

If you're taxing your brain, it may be worth revisiting what you purchased over the past year. Now is the perfect time to reimburse yourself for an FSA-eligible expense you may have missed.

Taking inventory of the past couple years of spending may also jog your memory. Are you overdue for an eye exam? Have you been putting off a specialist visit? Did you skip your annual trip to the dermatologist? Time slips away faster than you may expect. You may be able to use your extra FSA money on basic necessities.

If you're still feeling nervous, our foolproof list of FSA-eligible products and services has you covered.

Resist the urge to stockpile

We've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again - try not to "stockpile" FSA-eligible products. There's no hard and fast rule about this, but being too frivolous with these funds can trigger some unwanted IRS attention.

Look, we get it. Things happen — the holidays creep in and before you know it, you're up against the FSA spending deadline. While it may be tempting to splurge on a lifetime supply of gauze, experts urge against it.

If you're trying to follow the rules — and you should be — FSA purchases should cover your current needs. This means things you need through the end of the year. Does that mean your administrator will show up to inspect your bottle of nasal spray? Probably not.

But buying three bottles in December could trigger a red flag. If that happens, it's possible your administrator won't reimburse you. Then you're stuck with too much nasal spray and you spent money unnecessarily.

If your plan offers a rollover or grace period, it may be easier to avoid the temptation to stockpile. Plus, you'll have extra time to plan for the medical expenses you actually need.

Be smart with year-end FSA spending

One of the best things about your FSA is spending pre-tax money on medical necessities. But if you're not careful, you may have to surrender the unused funds. Unless you're flush with cash, returning FSA money to your employer at the end of the year is less than ideal.

The good news is you can use this year's missteps to plan for next year's FSA spending. Planning ahead may help you avoid the same trouble next December.

Start here!

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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.


Flex-Ed: Speaking to millennials at open enrollment

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. You spend hours preparing for a company meeting on employee benefits. But when it's time to share information, some employees are visibly less interested. By the end of the meeting, eyes have glazed over, and attention has disappeared.

Fast forward to open enrollment. Maybe it's a little early to tackle this, but this same group of employees is pretty disengaged. And they are less likely to understand what your company offers. So it's better to start now and avoid confusion later.

Millennials may be first to say, "I've got this." But the truth is, open enrollment can be confusing and stressful. Key details may be glossed over. And as a result, they may be less likely to opt in. Here are some tips on how to spark interest before the onslaught of paperwork begins.

Communication matters

If you're offering the types of benefits millennials value most — great. But do they actually understand what you offer? Communication is critical. Try going beyond in-person meetings, letters, or emails. Share the message in bite-sized pieces through texts, blog posts, or videos. Repeating what matters may be the key to boosting millennial engagement.

Highlight ways to save

Millennials may have a reputation for frivolous spending. But that's not the case with healthcare. Research has revealed nearly half of millennials have skipped or delayed care to save money. Become a trusted resource and advocate by making benefits easier to understand. Break healthcare benefits down into manageable chunks.

Oh, be sure to ditch the industry jargon. These might be common terms to some, but it always helps to decipher things like coinsurance, copayment, or out-of-pocket maximum, providing real-world examples of how each of these will impact their wallets.

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are another way to save on taxes. Money shifts into a special account before being paid. Explain the "use it or lose it" rules and why it requires some extra planning. There's no "magic number" that works for all employees. Everyone's needs are different. Ask these questions to guide them through the decision process:

  • How much money did you spend last year? Sifting through old receipts can be a snooze, but it's helpful to have a baseline for planning purposes.
  • Do you have any major health expenses planned? Time to stop putting off that root canal? Or is your family expecting a baby? You're likely to use 100% of the year's FSA money — and more. But if you're expecting routine check-ups, contributing the full amount may not make sense.
  • Does your company offer a high-deductible health plan? A recent survey found most millennials don't understand how they work. To make matters worse, 70% waste up to $750 because of mistakes at open enrollment. Maybe a health savings account (HSA) is a viable alternative.

Grab attention before open enrollment

No one wants to read a stack of papers. Try delivering the information other ways. Consider which benefits are most valuable to millennials and highlight them — more than once. Helping your employees make the most of their benefits could save them a lot of money. Best of all, they may want to stick around longer.

New FSA-eligible arrivals...


New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.

Living Well

Real Money: How your FSA can lead to better sleep

Getting enough sleep can be a constant battle. If you struggle, you know how much it impacts every day of your life. It can mess with everything from your hormones to brain function. Sleep problems may even contribute to major health problems like obesity and depression.

Lack of sleep may cause a lot of havoc, but luckily, there are ways to try and fix it. If you are worried about the money, consider using your flexible spending account (FSA). It's a great way to spend tax-free dollars on getting some shut-eye. Here are four FSA-eligible options you may not have considered.

Improve your sleeping environment

Sometimes, adjusting your bedroom environment can make a big difference. You don't have to break the bank with a full-scale renovation. Try experimenting with a few small changes over time.

If you can't add room-darkening blinds, try blocking out light with a pain alleviating sleep mask. This lavender comfort wrap not only reduces pain through hot or cold therapy, but as a bonus it helps promote relaxation. If you are a light sleeper, try a white noise machine or earplugs to block out extra sounds.

It's a good idea to avoid gadgets, electronics, and bright lights. You should replace your mattress every 5-7 years and invest in comfy bedding. Experts say the ideal sleep temperature is around 65 degrees.

Are digestion issues keeping you awake?

It's common to experience acid reflux or heartburn after a big meal. But if this happens often, it could be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If you are pregnant or overweight, these symptoms may be even more likely.

If it happens at night, while you are lying down, a wedge medical pillow may offer some relief. These pillows keep your stomach acid at bay by elevating your head, shoulders, and torso.

Too anxious or stressed? See a professional.

Sleep issues are often linked to mental health problems. Your poor sleep may be the result of anxiety, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These issues may not go away on their own. Lack of sleep may be making your symptoms worse. If you suspect one of these issues may be your underlying problem, don't be afraid to seek treatment.

Consider a sleep study

If you have made a bunch of lifestyle changes and still struggling, consider a sleep study. These tests can measure your sleep cycles to find out where your patterns are being disturbed. A sleep study may help your doctor diagnose one of these common problems:

  • Chronic insomnia
  • Narcolepsy
  • Periodic limb movement disorder
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Other unusual sleep behaviors

If your doctor uncovers one of theses issues, they may schedule a follow-up appointment. From there, they can recommend further treatment options to try and resolve the problem.

You don't have to suffer through chronic sleep problems

If you have been suffering from sleep problems for a while, you know how devastating the effects can be. It's tough to slog through every day feeling exhausted, with no relief in sight. If you have already tried a bunch of things, with the same disappointing result, it may be time to speak with your doctor.

With any luck, they may diagnose the problem and get you started with a treatment plan. Before you know it, you may finally achieve that elusive good night's sleep.


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.

Living Well

Asked and Answered: How can I use my FSA to handle ongoing allergies?

If you struggle with seasonal allergies -- yes, even in the heart of summer -- you know how difficult they can be. Itchy eyes and sneezing are tough to bear, especially when the pollen count is high. If over-the-counter drugs aren't enough, it may be time for a more proactive approach.

It may not always be cheap, but your flexible spending account (FSA) could make allergy treatment easier to pay for. Here's some things you might want to know.

What causes seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies are rough. Before tackling them head-on, it may help to understand why they actually happen. Allergies occur when your immune system flags a substance — like pollen or mold — as "dangerous" to your body. For protection, your body reacts with inflammation. This may include your digestive system, skin, or sinuses. You can tell from the onslaught of sneezing, congestion, coughing or other symptoms.

Visit an allergist to prevent seasonal allergies

The problem with seasonal allergies is once they begin, they can be difficult to control. Over-the-counter remedies may not be enough. They may leave you with less money, without a lot of progress to show for it.

If your seasonal allergies are severe, you may want to see a doctor before your symptoms begin. They may suggest skin tests or blood work to identify your main triggers. From there, they may offer a customized treatment plan.

Start with the right over-the-counter drugs

Over-the-counter allergy drugs usually aren't cheap. Luckily, with a doctor's prescription, you can use your FSA or health savings account (HSA) to pay for them. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Cromolyn sodium nasal spray - This drug may prevent allergies, but only if you use it before the symptoms begin.
  • Decongestants - These may come in either pill or nasal spray form. Oral decongestants may offer temporary relief from a stuffy nose. But they shouldn't be used every day — or your symptoms may get worse. Here's what to look for in the drugstore:
  • Oral decongestants - pseudoephedrine - brand names like Sudafed or Afrinol
  • Nasal sprays - oxymetazoline (Afrin) or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine)
  • Oral antihistamines - These drugs may relieve allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy skin, watery eyes, or a runny nose. Some of the most popular options include:
  • Loratadine - brand names Claritin or Alavert
  • Cetirizine - brand name Zyrtec Allergy
  • Fexofenadine - brand name Allegra Allergy
  • Loratadine-pseudoephedrine - Claritin-D
  • Fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine - Allegra-D

Consider allergy shots

If over-the-counter remedies aren't enough, your doctor may suggest allergy shots. Once you know what causes trouble, your doctor can start allergen immunotherapy. This involves getting regular shots or tablets.

The treatment includes exposure to small amounts of the problem substance. Over time, your immune system may be more comfortable with the substance and skip flares from future contact.

Be proactive with seasonal allergies

Seasonal allergies make it hard to enjoy the warmer months. Rather than reacting when symptoms flare, consider a more proactive approach. By getting ahead of your seasonal allergies, your day-to-day activities, including time outdoors, will be a lot more comfortable.


From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears on Wednesdays, 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.


Flex-Ed: Avoid mistakes with your tax-free funds when traveling abroad

Living abroad is exciting. It's the chance to experience a new culture, learn another language, and, of course, try lots of delicious foods. Whether you are starting a new job, joining the ranks of digital nomads, or retiring someplace cheaper, there are plenty of details to iron out.

With so much to look forward to, it's easy to overlook the practical aspects of your new adventure. If you forgot about your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) — and who could blame you? — there's some good news: you can still use it while overseas. There are a few things you should know before you start swiping, though.

Know your qualified medical expenses

There are a few ways these accounts save you money. You can deposit cash before taxes, let it grow tax-free, and use it for certain qualified medical expenses. By using an FSA or HSA to pay for these, you are getting a discount because you never paid tax on the money.

There is a long list of what the IRS allows. Things like riding in an ambulance, eyeglasses, and dental expenses get a thumbs up. They are also clear on what isn't allowed — cosmetic surgery, supplements, non-prescription drugs, and more. So if you decided to get a nose job on a whim, it wouldn't get tax-free treatment from the IRS. The same rule applies no matter where you live.

There may be a hefty fee for foreign expenses

When you are traveling abroad, it's always better to err on the side of caution with foreign transaction fees. Some premium credit cards may waive them — but that doesn't mean your FSA provider will too.

Before swiping your card overseas, review your FSA or HSA card agreement and disclosures. You may discover a 1-3% percent "international fee" or "foreign transaction fee."

Taking prescription drugs across the border

Managing chronic illness in the United States is expensive. It may be tempting to bring in medicine from somewhere cheaper — after all, we pay more for prescriptions than any other developed country.

The problem is, the IRS says overseas prescriptions aren't "qualified medical expenses." That's because, generally, the FDA doesn't want you to import drugs. They say it's because they can't guarantee the safety or efficacy of medicine from another country. But there may be some rare exceptions. If you can legally import the drugs, they may still qualify.

Be savvy with your tax-free funds in other countries

There are a lot of adjustments to make while living abroad. Fortunately, your FSA or HSA may be one of the easier things to deal with. By following a few basic rules, you can avoid getting into trouble with the IRS — and save on health care.


New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.


Real Money: How to comparison shop for health care

If you're like most people, you love scoring a deal. Happy hours, cash-back apps, and end-of-season sales are your "go-to" ways to save money. You wouldn't think twice about shopping around for a new car or a hotel stay. Why shouldn't your health get the same level of attention?

According to a recent Health Affairs study, most people don't comparison shop for services. Folks believe comparing costs is important, but only 3% actually do it. Knowledge is one big deterrent — 75% of people don't know where to get the info they need. And some are scared to ruffle any feathers with their current provider.

We get it — healthcare deals aren't lurking in your inbox like Nordstrom's latest flash sale. But there are major price differences between providers. Accepting the first offer may mean paying more than you need to. If you are ready to make a change, we have you covered. Here are some ways to save by comparison shopping for health care.

Stop overpaying for prescriptions

It's expensive to manage a chronic condition — especially with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Even with a health savings account (HSA), monthly prescriptions can be a tough pill to swallow. Luckily, you have more choices than the nearest drugstore.

WeRx or GoodRx are a couple of good comparison websites. By plugging in your prescription, you can compare prices at big box stores. If a pharmacy buys directly from a drug company, there may be extra savings they can pass along to you. You can also use these websites to see if mail order options are cheaper.

Compare prices for common procedures

When your doctor suggests a routine procedure — like an ultrasound or MRI — be sure to carefully jot down all the specifics. Don't leave the office without asking for the procedure's CPT code.

Nonprofit websites like FAIR Health manage the country's largest database of health insurance claims. They allow you to plug in a CPT code and to see the average local cost. You may be shocked to see the wide range of prices in your city for the exact same service.

For example, I plugged in my Nashville ZIP code and "sleep study" to see how much it costs for a diagnostic test. FAIR Health's estimates range from $2,845 (in-network) to $6,617 (out-of-network). That's a massive difference.

You can use the estimate to negotiate directly with the provider you choose. It may also come in handy if your insurance company pays less than you expected. FAIR Health offers step-by-step instructions on how to navigate both of these scenarios.

Never accept the first offer

There is nothing fun about wrestling with medical bills. But the truth is, some headaches are avoidable. Would you drop hundreds of dollars on home repairs without getting multiple estimates? Probably not.

You owe it to yourself to follow the same rules for health care. By uncovering affordable options, you may be less likely to delay a costly — but necessary — procedure. These proactive moves could keep you healthier for years to come.


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.


Real Money: How much is "too much" when it comes to FSA spending?

If you're like most folks, by this time of year, you may be sitting on a big pile of FSA money. According to our estimates, employees hand over up to $400 million of unused cash every year. Those are your hard-earned dollars disappearing back into your company's pockets.

Of course, you don't want to abandon these funds. But you don't want to blow it with your plan administrator, either. So, what's an FSA "hundredaire" to do? Start by checking out these tips.

Be strategic with your FSA balance

Spending down your FSA balance shouldn't be like an episode of "Supermarket Sweep." Instead, take a few minutes to make a list of all the things you actually need. (And if you haven't seen "Supermarket Sweep" make sure you do that right after creating the list.)

Smart spending could include replacing expired products. If you haven't purchased new glasses because the price tag scared you but you could benefit from an updated pair, now may be a good time to do it. For example, it's possible you don't have sunscreen for your upcoming cruise. If you're low on that ointment that your dermatologist recommended, call their office for a prescription.

Once the panic of missing your FSA deadline dies down, it may be easier to remember all the things you've been too frugal to buy.

Your year-end FSA shopping spree could be scrutinized

The problem with "use-it-or-lose-it" rules is by the time you learn them, it may be too late. Or you hear about them with only a few days to spare. And the latter can lead to sprinting through the aisles of your local drugstore, pitching dozens of family-sized boxes of band-aids into your cart. Both are far from ideal — and stockpiling could get the stink eye from your administrator.

As a general rule of thumb, resist the urge to buy more than three of any single item. It's common for folks to try to stockpile over-the-counter items in December to spend down their FSA balances. But doing so could backfire and your plan administrator may not reimburse you.

If you know you will use the products within the plan year, that's may be enough to pass your plan administrator's sniff test. You are less likely to see a claim rejection if you buy reasonable amounts of FSA-eligible products.

If you're still worried, you can always contact your plan administrator first. Asking them for the specifics of what FSA spending is and it's allowed may ease your mind. If you received a copy of your Summary Plan Description during open enrollment, it may also spell out these rules, too.

Keep a list for next year's FSA spending

Once your FSA deadline passes, the clock starts ticking again for next year's spending. There is always room for improvement, and the end of the year is the perfect time for reflection. If you're not happy with this year's spending, shift next year's priorities accordingly. Instead of beating yourself up for past mistakes, take the opportunity to learn from them. The new year is a chance to start fresh and avoid a big balance next December.


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.