For those of us with Flexible Spending Accounts, we have about a month left to spend the rest of our money. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) allows you to set aside some money before taxes for common medical expenses. This was my first year participating in an FSA program. I planned on getting new eyeglasses, a year’s worth of contact lenses, contact lens supplies (like saline solution), and a few first aid / medical items. I held back more money than I needed, and any money left over at the end of December would be lost.
I decided to add some more first aid items and medical supplies to the household, all of which were FSA-eligible. This might help you if you have some pennies rattling around in your FSA piggy bank.
Some of these items were bought with my FSA money.
The first thing to get squared away is what’s eligible for FSA spending and what is not. I was surprised at how many weird items were eligible for FSA, and at how many things I actually used on a regular basis were not. For example, liquid bandage is okay, but antibiotic healing ointment like Neosporin is only eligible with a prescription. Apparently this was due to stockpiling or reselling, but I still think it’s dumb.
It’s hard to find the official list of approved items for FSA expenses, but your FSA provider should have a list. You can also look at the IRS 502 publication to see a list of deductible medical items and services for some information.
My FSA provider issued a debit card to me. That seemed great at first, but it can’t be used at certain places like Amazon.com, where I buy almost everything. It’s weird, my card was accepted at a military supply store (I bought some bandages and tourniquets) – via their storefront on Amazon. I don’t know how the decision is made to allow certain vendors, but it makes it hard to figure out where I can use my card and where I cannot.
An easier thing to do is buy your items from an online place that specializes in FSA items. Big box stores like Walgreens, Drugstore.com, Target or Wal-Mart have special sections on their Web site for FSA items, or denote FSA items with an icon. Be aware that if you mix and match FSA items with regular human items your card may not be acceptable for payment. Some of my friends have no problem using their FSA cards from other providers in these types of situations, but mine doesn’t work that way. It has to be all or nothing, otherwise I have to use another form of payment and then ask for a reimbursement.
In order to keep everything as cut and dried as possible, I did a lot of shopping through FSAStore.com. It is extremely easy to navigate to FSA items based on category (such as first aid supplies, or first aid kits) and they sub-divide these categories into items that are available with or without a prescription. SUPER EASY.
I recommend buying some first aid kits as starters, and then adding items that you use frequently or larger / more specialized items not found in most kits. For example, I bought additional gauze bandages and bandage wraps. We used a lot when Pearl snapped her toenail off, and when Rosie hurt her foot.
I was also able to buy more liquid bandage, and this is the #2 thing used in my office boo-boo kit (#1 is acetaminophen).
I bought burn gel. It was much less expensive to buy a larger bottle of it online than smaller bottles locally. I purchased some generic elastic bandages (Band-Aids) in weird ass sizes that don’t get packed into typical kits, or come in very limited quantities. Knuckle bandages are a good example. You don’t really need them until you really need them, and most kits may have only one or two.
Some medical devices are also FSA eligible, such as a blood pressure cuff, stethoscopes, and certain kinds of braces and splints. I bought a pair of three differently-sized finger splints, for example. You can also buy canes and wheelchairs, but I didn’t have a perceived need for that kind of hardware.
You may be surprised at what qualifies for your FSA program, and if you have some money left in your account this might be a great way to spend it and shore up your first aid kits at home, work, or in your car. Give FSAStore.com a try. Most of their prices are pretty good, especially for bulk items. Some items are less expensive on Amazon, but when you figure in the pre-tax savings from the FSA and/or the hassle of getting a reimbursement it might even out for you in the end.