Finances & Money Taxes

Clock is Ticking on ’09…Surprising Ways to Stretch Your Healthcare FSA

The following article is courtesy of Coppertone. I normally don’t publish unsolicited articles sent to me, but this one caught my eye because of the items for hand sanitizer and sunscreen. I’ve added my own notes about each.

The average American family spends $2,000 on personal health care expenses each year. Contributing that amount to an FSA can translate to a federal tax savings of more than $500 (assuming the average tax bracket of 27%). But there’s a catch; you need to use all of the funds in one calendar year or the money vanishes. (CD: We blew through $900 in just 6 months at my new job, and we don’t even have kids! We upped our FSA allowance to $1200 for 2010)

The good news is that many surprising categories of products are typically covered by flex spending accounts. Here’s a handy guide to some seasonal, everyday items often covered by flex spending to make sure you don’t waste a single dollar this year:

1. Hand Sanitizer: Flu season is here, and this year, families and schools are being especially vigilant about H1N1 infection. According to a recent study, only 50% of middle and high school students say they washed their hands regularly. Send kids to school with FSA-approved portable hand sanitizer as an added precaution from getting sick. (CD: I was surprised at this so I did some investigation. It’s a new item on the list, so make sure YOUR FSA covers it. Call your administrator to be sure)

2. Cold Remedies: If you do fall ill, FSA’s got you covered. Over the counter cold remedies such as cough drops and syrups, throat lozenges, and cold medicines are often reimbursable. And if you suffer from high blood pressure, make sure to stock up on a cold medication that won’t raise your blood pressure like Coricidin Day & Night multi-symptom at the beginning of the season; that way you won’t have to rush out for relief when you’re feeling under the weather.

3. Sunscreen: Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen year-round to protect against ever-present UVA and UVB rays. Good thing sunscreens with SPFs over 30 are typically covered by FSA. Moisturizers with SPF aren’t eligible, so purchase a sunscreen that’s lightweight enough for year-round, everyday use, like Coppertone Oil Free lotion SPF 50. Buy now and you’ll still have enough to toss in your suitcase for a winter vacation.

4. Gym Bag Essentials: With after-school sports in high gear, bruises, scrapes, and athlete’s foot are regular occurrences. Use flex dollars on items like bandages and antibiotic ointment, as well as for antifungal athlete’s foot treatments like Tinactin sprays. To maximize FSA dollars, it’s a good idea to buy a variety of shapes and sizes so no “boo boo” goes uncovered.

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Clever Dude


  • Also check with your plan administrator. Most FSA plans have a grace period at the beginning of the year so that you can use last year’s unspent dollars on current year expenses.

    For example, my plan has a grace period that runs until mid-March, so I could use any unspent 2009 money on expenses incurred from Jan – mid-March 2010.

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