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Wage Up! Smart budgeting for single parents
Making a budget can be daunting, and even more for single parents. So you need to make sure you're making smart budgeting choices to have enough money to take care of your child's needs. And a big part of creating that budget is to utilize all the tools available to you to the fullest extent - including your HSA.
You probably think of your HSA simply as money you set aside to use when you need to pay for medical expenses, but did you know that you can also use it as a budgeting tool?
With a few savvy strategies in place, you can use your HSA to put tax-free dollars towards qualified medical expenses (including everyday health needs), as well as save for the future.
Saving your funds
You probably already know that your HSA money can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, but the great thing about HSA's is that you don't need to spend the money by a certain point if you don't want to. Your HSA money will never expire. So one of the best things you can do to help your budget in the future is to save as much HSA money as possible.
If you're financially able to pay for your family's medical expenses out-of-pocket, don't touch the money - contribute as much as possible, and save it for the future. Though everyone's financial situation is different so it might not make sense for you to make the maximum contribution.
(To estimate exactly how much money you can save with your HSA, use our tax savings calculator.)
Reimburse yourself for earlier expenses
Did you know that you can use your HSA funds to reimburse yourself for earlier expenses?
As long as the expense was incurred after your HSA was established, you can claim reimbursement for it at any time. As a single parent, you know that unexpected expenses come up all the time, some of which can cause severe financial hardship. Having the funds available for past expenses can help ease some of the financial strain.
Of course, the strategy of saving until you absolutely need your funds requires some preparation on your part. Keep the receipts for all of your qualified expenses, as well as any other documentation. Take pictures of these documents and save them in a dedicated folder, along with a spreadsheet that documents the details of each expense, to make your life easier down the road. Document everything.
Using your HSA for essentials
Of course, you shouldn't ignore your own health needs for the sake of budgeting. If you or your family need medical care and are struggling to pay for it, use your HSA for any and all qualifying expenses. After all, that's what it's there for!
Especially as a single mom, the cost of caring for a newborn can really take a toll on your wallet. But your HSA can help you cover these costs. Eligible items include baby breathing monitors, breastfeeding supplies and accessories, thermometers, and baby sunscreen.
Just remember that if you do plan on using your HSA money, make sure you're only spending it on qualified expenses since they're the only type of expenses your funds can be handled tax-free. If you need your funds distributed for anything else before you reach retirement age, you'll have to pay income tax, as well as the 20% penalty.
Some parenting essentials to consider
Whether you're spending steadily or saving for something, Wage Up! is where we highlight the latest services available to buy with your HSA, every Monday on the HSA Learning Center. And for everything else about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.