Flexible spending accounts can save you money by contributing pre-tax funds to an account that is used towards medical expenses, but many contributors find they have money left at the end of the year. Money that isn't used goes back to your employer. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, discusses a few ways to make the most of your remaining contributions.
Some companies require you to spend all of your FSA contributions before the end of the year; others have a grace period that will extend into 2010. "Talk to your employer and find out what the deadline is," says Grant. "You may have as late as the end of March to submit some of the expenses that you've incurred."
To be sure you're using all the money you contributed in the first place, Grant suggests hunting for your receipts. "All of those doctor visits, you can go online and check through your DrugStore.com history, your CVS history. You can even go to your pharmacy and ask them to print out a list of your prescription claims for the year," says Grant. "Just make sure that you've submitted everything."
After you've gathered your receipts, keep in mind how many miles you put on your car to get to any doctor's visits. You can actually submit your mileage for reimbersement. "The IRS does allow you to claim mileage to and from the doctor's office," says Grant. Tolls and parking fees that you incurred along the way count, too, so be sure to search for those receipts. "The reimbersement rate this time is twenty-four cents per mile," say Grant.
While your 2009 FSA should really only be for this year's medical expenses, there are certain things that you can pre-pay for now for 2010. For example, installment plans for othodontics or mail order three-month prescription renewals can be paid for now.
You could also use the extra money to stock up on cold and flu items and antibacterials. "January and February tend to be the worst months for those illnesses," says Grant. Some plans will reimberse you for hand sanitizer, too, so consider stocking up to keep germs at bay all year long.
If you have a vacation in the near future, you can also buy sunscreen. Coverage for products with SPF vary by company, but some allow you to purchase lotion and deduct it from your FSA. Grant says some plans limit coverage to sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and others require a note from the doctor saying you have a skin condition that requires sunscreen, but it's worth a shot. Check in to what your employer's plan covers. Sun burn ointments, like aloe vera or cooling creams, are covered, though.
If you don't have any vacation plans coming up, think about safety at home instead. Beefing up your first aid kit is a great way to use those last few dollars. Chances are, you're low on bandages, ointments or need a new thermometer, so use your remaining funds to replenish your at-home kit. Or, buy a new kit altogether and keep it in your car for on-the-road emergencies.
Finally, think about your vision. Glasses, contacts and solution are all covered under your FSA plan. "You usually don't need another doctor's visit as long as your prescription is up to date," says Grant. "A lot of the stores... offer really flexible return policies." For example, 1-800-Contacts allows you to return unused contacts if your prescription changes.
For more information on flexible spending accounts, click here to visit www.SmartMoney.com.
By Erin Shea
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