As 2011 approaches its end, we find ourselves thinking about new goals, resolutions and all that we've overcome in this last year. We may allow certain things to fall through the cracks – like those Flexible Spending Account (FSA) dollars that we should have spent months ago. You've likely made the most of your employer's benefits, and with an FSA, you've been able to contribute pre-tax dollars to your health expenses. For families, this savings opportunity is even more rewarding because of higher contribution limits. (For related reading, see Healthcare FSAs Increase Your Personal Savings.)
TUTORIAL: Health Insurance
Still, if you've been fortunate enough to have spent 2011 in good health, you likely have significant funds leftover, and if you don't use them before the first day of 2012, you'll lose them. Given that you need to make the most of your money, what should you do?
As of January 2011, FSA funds no longer cover over-the-counter medications. However, you still have options for spending your money. Here are seven ideas to help you plan your leftover budget:
Bandages, First-Aid and OTC Non-Drugs
When was the last time you restocked your emergency supply kit or first-aid inventory? Especially if you have leftover FSA funds, now is the perfect time to restock your emergency supplies for 2012. To make sure that you are well-prepared for any emergency, keep what you need in your house, office and car. You never know when an accident will happen, and having these supplies will be helpful.
If you can, stock up for the next couple of months. Give your doctor and pharmacy a call to see if you're able to refill your medications. Even if you don't need them for a few more weeks or months, you'll be happy that you planned ahead.
Contact Lens Solution
Typically, contact lens solution has a shelf-life of several years, so if there's a brand that you like, you'll benefit from stocking up. When you shop, make sure to buy several sizes so that you have what you need for upcoming travel.
Your Annual Checkups
Don't let the year end without seeing your doctor. If you haven't had a physical, you still have time to squeeze one in, so give your medical provider a call. Ask the doctor to take care of all the necessary lab work so that you can get it all over with before the next year starts. If you need to see a medical specialist like a dermatologist or dietitian, try to get an appointment now.
If you've shopped at the optometrist's office, you know that these can get pricey. If you can't think of another way to spend your FSA dollars, now might be the time to splurge on those prescription shades that you've been eying for so long. Come summertime, you'll thank yourself for the decision.
Extra Eye wear
When you break, misplace or scratch your glasses, you'll instantly need another pair. Instead of leaving yourself unprepared, make sure that you have a backup ready. With spare FSA dollars, now might be the perfect time to invest in a second set of frames and lenses. Even if no emergency arises, you'll still have two great pairs of glasses to switch between.
Physical Therapy Copays
Whether you have an injury or chronic pain, physical therapy is important. Beyond providing immediate treatment for your condition, therapists provide valuable insight to help you take better care of yourself. If you've worked with a physical therapist in the past, you may consider consulting one again to reassess your condition and learn new exercises that can help you moving forward.
The Bottom Line
Even if you're in crunch time to spend money, take a step back to reassess what you need. No matter how close we are to any deadline, it's never too late to plan. Sit down, relax and think about the best ways to spend your leftover FSA cash.