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 could potentially lose some of it, and lost cash is never a good thing.
With the deadline fast approaching for many FSA account holders, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it, plus important information about the annual carryover amounts for 2023 and 2024, respectively. All of this could be useful to keep in mind, especially if you’re unsure about what FSAs actually are, and what is FSA-eligible in the first place.
What are FSAs?
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 have to 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. Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, this list should help you get started. Many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online, too.
What are the FSA contribution and carryover limits for 2023?
Annual contribution limits for employees have steadily increased in recent years, from from $2750 for 2021 to $2850 for 2022. In 2023, those limits rose to $3050, and in the 2024 plan year, folks will have a chance to contribute up to $3200 through payroll deductions.
Rollover figures have also followed that upward trajectory. When it comes to unused funds in 2023, the maximum amount that can be carried over into 2024 is $610. (For the 2024 plan year, that figure will be capped at $640.)
1. Explore online therapy.
You might not expect it, but you can actually put FSA funds toward online therapy services like BetterHelp and get matched with licensed therapists within just a couple of days. New users may also be eligible to receive discounts on their first month of therapy sessions.
Even if you’re not using platforms online, mental health therapy is typically covered, although certain services—like marriage or family counseling—may not be, so it’s always a good idea to check with your provider.
2. 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.
3. 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 may cover those visits, too.
4. 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) desire.
5. Treat your feet.
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.
6. 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 much 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.
7. 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.
8. 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. Additionally, menstrual cups, pads, and tampons are covered.
9. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.
If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on essentials, including:
- Sunscreen (you might even find several expert-recommended picks are eligible)
- Motion sickness medication
- Headache medicine
- Compression socks for long flights (just make sure they’re rated 30-40 mmHg or above)
10. 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 humidifier can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required).
11. 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 mouth guards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.
12. Get insights into your overall health.
Ever been curious about your unique genetic makeup? You can grab this 23andMe Health Service kit (note: it does not include ancestry or trait reports) and discover how your genetics might impact your chances of developing certain health conditions.
13. 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, the Oura smart ring, stethoscopes, and full-body analysis scales.
14. Head to Amazon.
A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.