Ways to Spend Your Flexible Spending Account Money by March 15 Deadline

Many workers will be hitting the drugstore in the next few days to use up leftover flexible spending account money from 2018 so they don’t lose it.

Question: I just realized that I have a few hundred dollars left over from my flexible spending account from last year that I must spend by March 15 or else I’ll lose it. What can I use it for on short notice?

Answer: You can use money from your flexible spending account for out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as your health insurance deductible, co-payments, prescription drugs, and vision and dental care. You probably won’t be able to schedule an appointment with your doctor or dentist on such short notice, but there are several things you can use your FSA money for in a hurry, including some drugstore items you may not have realized are eligible expenses.

For example, you can use your FSA money to stock up on contact lenses and contact lens solution, as well as eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses. Or tap the account to buy thermometers, blood pressure monitors, prenatal vitamins, breast pumps, sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, hot/cold packs, first aid kits, bandages, orthopedic braces and even an acupressure neck pillow. “What most consumers don’t know is that the eligible FSA expenses extend beyond basic medical supplies to include items like batteries for a hearing aid, glucose test strips, acupuncture, and even wheelchairs and walking aids,” says Leslie Antunes, chief growth officer of Alegeus, which administers FSAs for employers.

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Many drugstore items don’t require a prescription, but some of them do. See FSAStore.com’s eligibility list for details. FSAStore.com specializes in selling items that are FSA-eligible. Some FSA plans provide a debit card that makes it easy to buy eligible items at the drugstore.

The FSA deadline to use-it-or-lose-it varies among employers. More than one-third of employers offer a grace period until March 15 to use the previous year’s FSA money, while nearly half let you roll over $500 from one year to the next, according to a study by the Society of Human Resource Management. And about 17% offer neither a rollover nor a grace period, requiring people to use up the money in their accounts by December 31. It’s not unusual for workers to miss the deadline, forfeiting a total of about $400 million annually, says Antunes.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.