13 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline

Looking for ideas on what to spend your FSA funds on this year? Consider these.
Looking for ideas on what to spend your FSA funds on this year? Consider these. / LumiNola, E+ Collection, Getty Images
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If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it, and lost cash is never a good thing.

For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of healthcare expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but when it comes to the FSA vs. HSA debate, there are a few key differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. Typically with an FSA, though, you must spend all of the funds by December 31 of the year in which you make the contributions, or you end up forfeiting the remaining balance.

In recent years, though, guidelines surrounding FSAs changed somewhat and became more relaxed. Thanks to temporary rules enacted under the 2020 CARES Act, folks were allowed to roll over a set amount of unspent FSA funds into the following year, provided their employers adopted the adjusted provisions. Additionally, it allowed for a grace period of up to two-and-a-half months to use that cash (March 15). In November 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced [PDF] that rollover figures would increase to $570 for 2022, up from $550 in 2021. Annual contribution limits for employees also increased, from $2750 for 2021 to $2850 for 2022.

However, the more flexible rules surrounding rollovers are set to expire this year on December 31, and depending on your employer, you might not have until March 15 to spend all of your FSA money. With the deadline fast approaching for many account holders, here is a handful of creative ways to spend it, which could be useful to keep in mind, especially if you’re unsure what is FSA-eligible in the first place.

1. Buy some new shades.

Head to the optometrist, get a vision prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs, contacts, or shades. You can even shop fashion-forward brands like Warby Parker and put your FSA dollars to good use that way.

Additionally, contact lenses solution is covered, and you can also buy non-prescription reading glasses with your FSA money.

2. Try acupuncture.

Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now’s a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription. If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.

3. Stock up on OTC staples.

If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter (OTC) meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.

In the past, there was a big caveat attached, however: Most of these required a prescription in order to be eligible, so you would have has to make an appointment with your doctor first. Under the CARES Act, the OTC Rx requirement was repealed, so now FSA users are fully eligible to purchase them with no restrictions.

4. Treat your feet.

Give your feet a break with a pair of supportive inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, foot rollers, and callus trimmers, plus so much more.

In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, with no prescription necessary.

5. Get clear skin.

Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skincare products are all eligible for FSA spending. Some of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.

While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm and some standard moisturizing skin creams are another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face mask.

6. Fill your medicine cabinet.

If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:

You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.

7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.

Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, baby monitors, and ovulation tests. Birth control is also eligible when you have a prescription, and nursing moms can grab electric breast pumps.

8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.

If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:

9. Get a better night’s sleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and these breathing strips.

For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required).

10. Go to the dentist.

While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.

11. Get insights into your overall health.

Ever been curious about your unique genetic makeup? You can grab the 23andMe Health Service (note: does not include ancestry or trait reports) and discover how your genetics might impact your chances of developing certain health conditions.

12. Try some new gadgets.

If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, stethoscopes, and full-body analysis scales.

13. Head to Amazon.

There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.

Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2022.