Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Need to use up FSA funds? Buy condoms, sunscreen

Wigs, tanning salons, summer camp may also be eligible expenses

By Donna_Freedman Nov 13, 2009 11:49AM
Flexible spending accounts are a great boost to the budget since they let you pay for health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax monies. Since this is a "use it or lose it" situation, it's important to make sure you've spent all your funds by the end of the grace period, which ends March 15, 2010.

There certainly are plenty of ways to spend the money. For example, condoms, IUDs and birth control pills are all on the eligible expenses list.

Or you can head in the other direction, since sterilization reversal, ovulation kits, Viagra and Levitra, in vitro fertilization, pregnancy test kits and Lamaze classes are also allowed.

Some of the things available for reimbursement surprised me: summer camp, Midol, lice treatment, diaper rash cream, Retin-A, fluoride rinse, antacids, massage therapy, guide dogs and Pepto-Bismol.

Under the right conditions, items and services like air conditioners, lactation consultants, ginkgo biloba, naturopathic medicine, wigs, household help, incontinence products, and even tanning salon visits are allowable expenses.


One way to use up the last few FSA dollars is to buy next summer's sunscreen at clearance prices. Only products with an SPF of 30 or higher are eligible for reimbursement. (Moisturizers or cosmetics that claim to have sun-blocking factors are not eligible.)

While you're at it, buy enough to wear this winter as well. According to photobiologist Dr. Patty Agin, UV rays still come through overcast winter skies -- and right through a car or office window, too.

Sure, you probably won't get sunburned on a cloudy January day. But the UV rays will contribute to skin damage over the long haul.

"Even in the wintertime if you're going to be out for any length of time, put on some kind of sunscreen," says Agin, who holds a PhD in cell and molecular biology.

The scientist works for Schering-Plough, the company that makes the iconic sun product Coppertone. She notes that sunscreens on store shelves now probably are good for at least two more years.
 
"It would be fine to buy it for next (summer)," Agin says. Our historical data really show that the products are extremely stable."

Related reading:
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