With less than three months to use the funds in your Flexible Spending Account before they are gone for good, don’t forget to use some of that flex money to give your eyes a little love.
What is a Flexible Spending Account?
Established by the U.S. government to provide employees with a tax-free method for paying out-of-pocket medical and health-related expenses, Flexible Spending Accounts have increased in popularity in recent years, especially since they enable individuals to lower their taxable income by up to $5000.
Here’s how Flexible Spending Account work:
Flexible Spending Accounts allow employees to have up to $5000 withheld tax-free that they can use toward various health and dependent-care expenses (for example, the cost of day-care.) Funds are either deducted from the account via a debit card, or the employee can submit receipts of eligible purchases, and the funds are credited against the balance of the account.
Flexible Spending Accounts are beneficial because they allow you to bank funds that aren’t taxed by the Federal Government to cover certain out-of-pocket expenses, as well as lower your tax liability.
The only downside to Flexible Spending Accounts is that if you don’t use up all of the balance in your account by the end of the calendar year, you lose them for good. It is the infamous “Use ’em or lose ’em” situation that causes many people to scramble during the month of December to find ways to utilize remaining balances in their Flex Spending Accounts.
Ten ways to use your Flex Spending to care for your eyes:
The good news is that Flex Spending Accounts are actually surprisingly “flexible” when it comes to how you use the dollars you have contributed over the year. While the government is very clear about the types of things that Flex funds can be spent on (day care is fine, summer camp is not), there are plenty of ways to use your Flex contribution wisely before time runs out. Vision care products and eyewear are always a popular choice
Here are the top ten ways you can use your Flex Spending Account on vision-related needs before you lose your dollars for good.
1. Prescription sunglasses: Because prescription sunglasses are considered medical devices, they qualify as an eligible Flex purchase. If you’ve been dying to add a great pair of designer prescription sunglasses to your eyewear collection, now is the time. Any sunglass frame qualifies, including designer sunglasses, provided they contain a valid prescription lens.
2. Prescription eyeglasses or reading glasses: Like prescription sunglasses, eye glasses are medical devices. Flex funds can be spent on both prescription lenses and the frames to hold the lenses. If you’ve been putting off getting a new pair of prescription glasses, December is great time to get an eye exam and upgrade your eyewear. If you’ve recently purchased a pair of “everyday” eyeglasses, you might use the remaining balance in your Flexible Spending Account to add a second, more “daring” pair of designer eyewear to your wardrobe.
3. Contact lenses: Daily wear and extended wear disposable contact lenses typically have up to a four year shelf-life, provided they are stored in their original, sealed-packages at room temperature. If you want to stock up on contact lenses for the coming year, you can use your Flexible Spending Account funds to buy ahead for 2011. Even better, buying a year’s supply of contacts enables you to take advantage of bulk discounts and rebates to stretch your Flex Spending dollars even more. If you’re concerned about your prescription changing during the year, don’t worry: Most optometrists will allow you return your sealed, unmarked contact lens boxes for a new prescription (as long as they’re in sellable condition)
4. Colored Contact Lenses: Want to make your brown eyes blue? Colored or tinted contact lenses are eligible for Flexible Spending, provided they are prescription lenses and not “no-power” contacts for purely cosmetic purposes
5. Special effect prescription contact lenses: If you want to get a pair of prescription special effects contacts for next Halloween (or just to add a little excitement at the next office party), special effects contact lenses qualify for Flex Spending, provided they match your regular contact lens prescription
6. Contact lens solution and cleaners: It’s a small individual expense, but over a year the cost of contact lens solution and cleaners can add up. If you have a few dollars left in your Flexible Spending Account, you can stock up on contact lens products like solution and cases for the upcoming year.
7. Computer glasses: Suffering from eye strain, headaches or blurry vision after a long day at the computer? Computer glasses or anti-fatigue lenses like atLast!(TM) might help. Many people who don’t normally need eyeglasses find that a good pair of computer glasses can help them focus better after extended stints on the computer, as well as reduce eye fatigue. Computer glasses don’t have to be ugly, they can be paired with any fashion or designer frame you like.
8. Prescription safety glasses: While regular safety glasses don’t qualify for Flexible Spending, if you require a prescription in your safety glasses, you can use your Flexible Spending benefit to help cover the cost.
9. Eye exams: You can also use your Flexible Spending Account dollars to offset deductibles and copays for eye exams. If you haven’t had an eye exam in the past year and you have some Flex funds you are about to lose, get your peepers checked in December and be sure to get your receipts in before the end of the calendar year.
10. Refractive surgery: Treat yourself to the luxury of waking up and seeing your alarm clock without having to search for glasses or get up to put in your contacts. Tired of glasses that fog up in changing temperatures or contacts that dry out at the end of the day? Refractive surgery is an alternative and is covered by your Flexible Spending Account dollars.
While prescription eyewear and vision products are a great way to use up your Flexible Spending Account dollars without turning any unused balance over to Uncle Sam come January 1st, there are many other non-vision ways to use your Flex Spending Account dollars.