Leftover FSA Cash? 4 Smart (and Fun!) Ways to Invest in Your Eyes
Don’t lose your remaining flexible spending account dollars. Here are some clever ways to spend it that you probably never thought of.
Stop for a moment and soak up your surroundings. See twinkling lights and fake snow anywhere? Do you hear jingle bells?
Both are sure signs that the year is running out on you—and along with it your chance to use the money you put into your health care flexible spending account (FSA). That dough goes bye-bye when the calendar flips. What to do?
One thought: Give your eyes some TLC.
“Your eyes are a good investment,” says Stephanie Zielenkievicz, manager of operations at National Vision, Inc., the parent company of America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses. “You only get one pair—and you can’t replace them.”
An eye exam isn’t just for updating your lens prescription, she says. It’s also to check the health of your eyes, learn about your risks for certain eye conditions, and get your vision questions answered. Plus, those just-for-fun frames are calling you!
Here are some helpful reminders about how FSAs work and what you need to do before December 31.
A Quick Refresher on FSAsFlexible spending accounts are a perk offered by many employers. They’re a great way to save on health and vision costs. You set aside pretax money from every paycheck, up to $2,600 a year. (This number is going up to $2,650 as of 2019). Then you draw from that account to pay for health care expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, such as your share of a prescription drug.
Because you’re using funds that you didn’t have to pay taxes on, FSAs save you money on your everyday health-related expenses—everything from contact lens solution to prescription eye drops.
How did you wind up with extra cash in the account? When you signed up for an FSA during last year’s open enrollment period at work, you estimated how much you would spend on health expenses this year—that’s called your annual election.
The leftover funds are how much you overestimated your expenses. Or maybe you forgot to use your FSA when you made eligible purchases. Either way, if you don’t use it by December 31, your company—the technical account owner—gets to keep the money. (Check your specific plan to see if you have a longer deadline.)
4 Ways Show Your Eyes Some LoveNow that you’re back up to speed on the ins and outs of your FSA, check your outstanding FSA balance and consider some of the ways you can put your leftover cash to good use on your eye care—and fast.
Great Eye-dea No. 1: Update Your PrescriptionReady for new specs or contact lenses, but your prescription is out of date? You’ll need to see your eye doctor by December 31. State laws vary, but most contact lens prescriptions are valid for at least a year; most eyeglass prescriptions are good for one to two years. Call your America’s Best optometrist to find out the status of your prescription.
Great Eye-dea No. 2: Take Care of Your Family’s Eye Needs“Don’t forget, you can use your FSA dollars for everyone in your family,” says Zielenkievicz. Now’s the time to follow through on those put-off plans to get your kids’ eyes checked, for example. You can also get them new sports goggles for basketball or use this opportunity to get your teen fitted for his first pair of contact lenses.
Great Eye-dea No. 3: Build an Eyewear Wardrobe“Who doesn’t want a second pair of glasses?” says Zielenkievicz. “After all, you don’t have just one pair of shoes!”
Be practical: Go for a backup pair if you’re notoriously hard on your frames, for example. Or maybe you could use a pair of glasses that are just for computer time, or just for working in the garden.
Different tasks put your eyes through different paces, including varying light conditions, changing focal points, and a range of wear and tear on the frames and lenses. It often makes sense to have an “everyday pair” of glasses, plus a pair for your work or hobbies, she says.
Or go for fun: Prescription sunglasses are an eligible FSA expense, making them a popular year-end choice. Or consider buying dressier-looking frames for work functions, church, weddings, and other special events.