Lesson of Using Flexible Spending Account (FSA)

The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) in the United States medical system is a really interesting concept — you pre-assign an amount of money into this account ahead of time for the next entire year, up to ~$2500.

The good part: you can use this money for medical, medicine and other eligible expenses, with the benefits not being charged for sales tax again. If you know you’ll have large medical expenses next year, such as a dental implant, FSA can cover it.

The bad part: it’s hard to make accurate estimates. If you don’t use up your FSA money, you’ll lose it after 12/31.

It’s thoughtful that the government allows you to buy FSA eligible items in certain online stores. If you have any FSA money left, use it there to buy stuff for yourself, your family and friends, like knee protection devices, hygiene items, and limited baby care items.

I overestimated last year’s medical expenses and pre-assign too much money into my FSA account, so at the end of the year, I was trying to spend them all to buy eligible FSA items. I was basically going through the entire product catalog and adding to cart items that I thought could be at least a little use to me.

I saw some toothpastes, and thought “ok, I’m running out those”, and then two of them became part of my shopping cart. They had the word “denture” but I don’t know what that word meant, didn’t check my dictionary, and that turned out totally wrong.

Not long after that, I got my big waves of shipments from FSA. One of few things I was looking forward to using was probably the toothpaste. I got one out of box, put it on the restroom table and ready to use.

Time for bed. I squeezed the toothpaste to my toothbrush and began brushing my teeth. It felt weird! Slippery and … just weird. Totally different from a regular toothpaste. I tried a few more times and had to stop. This was such a weird feeling of use, plus I didn’t feel it help with brushing my teeth at all.

I checked the toothpaste. I finally noticed that word I didn’t understand — “denture”. I looked it up — it meant those fake, artificially teeth! Like the ones my grandpa wears. Oh my!

Now, they’ve been donated to Goodwill and gone for good. My lesson: make sure exactly what you are buying even when you are trying to spend all your FSA money!