Use These 9 Tips to Put Your Flex Spending Account Dollars to Work for Your Eyes.
With less than a month left to use use the funds in your Flexible Spending Account before they’re 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 $5,000 dollars.
How Flexible Spending Accounts Work
Here’s how Flexible Spending Accounts work:
Flexible Spending Accounts allow employees to have up to $5,000 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 in 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 real 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, then you lose them for good.
This 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 any remaining balances in their Flex Spending Accounts.
Nine 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 isn’t), there are plenty of ways to use your Flex contribution wisely before it runs out.
Vision care products and eyewear are always a popular choice.
Here are the top nine ways you can use your Flex Spending Account on vision-related needs before you lose your dollars for good.
- Prescription Sunglasses: Because prescription sunglasses are considered medical devices, they qualify as an eligible Flex purchase. So 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 — just as long as they contain valid prescription lenses.
- Prescription Eyeglasses or Reading Glasses: Like prescription sunglasses, eye glasses are medical devices. So 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 a 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 eye glasses to your wardrobe.
- Contact Lenses: Daily wear and extended-wear disposal contact lenses typically have up to a four year shelf-life, provided they are stored in their original, sealed-packages under normal conditions. So 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 2010. 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 manufacturers and optical providers (including Urban Optiques) will let you return your unsealed contact lenses for a new prescription, if it changes.
- 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.
- Special Effects 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 like Crazy Eyes qualify for Flex Spending, provided they match your regular contact lens prescription.
- Contact Lens Solution and Cleaners: It’s a small individual expense, but over the year, 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 care products like solution and enzyme cleaners for the coming year.
- Computer Glasses: Suffering from eye strain, headaches or blurry vision after a long day at the computer? Computer glasses might help. And, they qualify for Flex spending. 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. And computer glasses don’t have to be ugly — we can pair them up with any fashion or designer frame that you like.
- 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.
- Eye Exams: You can also use your Flexible Spending Account dollars to offset deductibles and co-pays for eye exams. So if you haven’t had an 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.
While prescription eyewear and vision care products can help you make sure you spend all of your Flexible Spending Account dollars without turning any unused balance over to Uncle Sam come January 1st, there are plenty of other non-vision ways to use your Flex Spending Account dollars.
For an excellent list of other eligible Flex Spending items, visit the American Fidelity Assurance Company (AFA) website or download this guide from Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Please Note: This article is intended for education purposes only and does not constitute professional financial or tax advice. If you’re unsure about which services and products qualify for Flexible Spending Accounts, please contact your accountant, a tax attorney, HR professional or the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.