I spend how much on my eyes?!

I realize the big story this week is the stock market, but since my money is pretty much invested for the 30-year horizon, it won’t affect much except my net worth update next week. I’m curious, but not emotionally involved.

What is emotionally and fiscally affecting is my recent realization of just how much I spend in order to see.

I’ve worn glasses since I was maybe six or seven. I first got contact lenses at about 12 or 13. From the start, I’ve seen much better with contacts than with glasses. Peripheral vision! No tension headaches! But contacts carry their own challenges. For many years, I had the kind that lasted a full year. They mostly worked ok, although there was one memorable week in high school — not that memorable, I guess, because I can’t remember what the problem was. Either I tore/lost a lens, or I got an eye infection. Either way, I couldn’t wear the contacts, and it turned out that we hadn’t updated my glasses in years. Did I mention that I’m legally blind without corrected vision? I ended up taking a final exam with my face about three inches from the paper so I could read it. Sigh. After that I made sure to keep my glasses at least within spitting distance of my correct prescription, which got easier as I got older and my eyes settled down.

At some point, I moved to two-week disposable contacts, and that was what I did up until this year. However, as I got older, I had increasing problems with them. I had a half-dozen eye infections that required two weeks of wearing my glasses, antibiotic drops, etc. But even when that wasn’t happening, my eyes were always red and often a bit sore/dry. I was using the best contact solution available, I never napped in them, etc — I was doing everything the way I was supposed to — but still.

So, I finally made the decision to switch to daily disposables. That’s been great from the point of view of my eyes. They’re comfortable, all the issues with redness and scratchiness have disappeared, etc. But when I reordered lenses recently, I finally stopped to think about the costs not just in terms of overall price, but in terms of daily price. A box of 90 lenses in my prescription is $82 when ordering online. That means that I spend nearly $2 a day to wear contacts!!!!! I could be buying a nice cup of coffee instead, sigh.

This is all mitigated somewhat by my having eye insurance through work. That pays for the full cost of the yearly exam, but also $150 towards the cost of lenses. I shouldn’t have to get new glasses for several years, at least, after getting a new pair last Christmas, and I don’t wear contacts every single day. So next year, after I get an exam in December, I’m then looking at buying 7 boxes of lenses at $82 each, equaling $574, minus $150 is 424. That’s $1.34/day. I can knock that down a bit by buying online through ebates (referral link, and I really need to do a post just about ebates because they are *awesome*.) But still, it seems like a lot!

One nice thing is that next year I’ll finally have access to an FSA. I could have had one this year, but I wasn’t sure how much I should be putting in it. Since I typically get my exam at the very end of the year, my plan is to hold off on actually buying the contacts until early 2016, so I can buy them using pre-tax money I’ll put in the FSA. That’ll help too. And of course, it’s nice that I don’t have to buy contact solution anymore; that stuff was expensive because I was buying nice stuff to try to fend off the eye infections. Eh! Gotta see, right?

22 thoughts on “I spend how much on my eyes?!

  1. I totally understand your eyesight struggle. My vision is pretty bad also. Back when I was in college I tried the whole wearing contacts thing but it only lasted about a year. I had to pay for it myself which hurt the already stretched pocket & I realized I just couldn’t be bothered with the maintenance of them. Since then I’ve just stuck to my glasses & try to stay current with the prescription each year. What do you think about Lasik would you ever take the leap?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      My eyes are too bad for Lasik to work, actually, or I probably would have done that years ago. I could get a different type of surgery, but it’s much much more expensive and I don’t have the cash 🙁 I might consider it in the future. I’d love to be done with the whole glasses/contacts/yearly exam rigamarole.

  2. Kirsten says:

    My husband has glasses / contacts, too. Ou old job only covered the exam and I think a small discount on the contacts. When he was in China on a business trip, he left behind his contacts at one of his many hotel stops. He used his glasses but had headaches and such the rest of the trip. After returning to the U.S., he immediately flew to New England for a house hunting trip. He ordered a WHOLE YEAR of contacts to show up there. Um, his new insurance covers them… But only once he starts the job. I was so peeved. But I will now choose to be grateful for the coverage we have now.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      It is so expensive! Oooof to the year’s worth early…but I’m glad the new job will bring coverage now.

  3. Eye sight is a tricky one! There is comfort, freedom, versatility, a little bit – well, maybe a lot – of vanity and self-concept all mixed in with the actual seeing part. Are you a candidate for laser eye surgery? It’s something I am considering – but in my case, not until the mortgage has been paid off.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I can’t get Lasik — my eyes are too bad. You should totally go for it though after the mortgage is done.

  4. amanda says:

    I too do the daily disposables. Yes, they’re expensive and I suppose I could wear my glasses more, but contacts are way more comfy for yoga and running and walking around in the rain. Like you, I’m not a candidate for Lasik and I was getting weird eye infections pretty often before I switched to the daily disposables. I figure that with the money I save on contact lens solutions and doctors appointments plus the fact that my eyes are now much healthier, it’s the right way to go. That being said, I’m still totally jealous of people who have perfect eyesight!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Me too! Forget about the money — just the ease of not having to think about your eyes and cart around supplies sounds so great!

  5. Gah, I totally get it. I’m blind as a bat, too. Without glasses or contacts, I’m totally useless. What drives me nuts is that I wear toric lenses (astigmatism in both eyes) so my lenses are extra-expensive. My insurance covers about the same as yours, and I still used to come out of pocket an extra $200 per year for the contacts. I do try to make them last, though. They’re supposed to be changed once a month, but since I wear glasses a lot, too, I make them last two months. Now I’m down to only buying a 6 month supply each year. I SO wish I could get Lasik and be done with it, but every year I go for my eye exam, my vision is worse. This really depresses me. The prescription has to be steady for like 2 years before they’ll approve me for Lasik.
    Though I never really have trouble with my lenses or eye infections, I always think–in case of the apocalypse–when my contacts run out, and my glasses break, then what? I’m reduced to useless. Need Lasik…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I totally think about the apocalypse too! I’ll basically be dead in like two days.

  6. DebtFreeJD says:

    I’m thinking hard about Lasik once I am finished breastfeeding. I wearing glasses, and I haven’t gotten my prescription changed or a new set of glasses in years. I’m probably overdue. I should wear contacts for professional reasons, but if they wanted to hire Lawyer-Barbie, they should have gone with another candidate.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I think Lasik sounds amazing, and it’s pretty cheap. Good luck thinking it through!

  7. Hannah says:

    The last time my husband got glasses was the year that I delivered my son, so it was practically free. He’s gotten a free eye exam at his university and not changed prescriptions. Maybe next time he brings up glasses, I’ll suggest lasik. It seems like a cost-effective alternative, and he’s a good candidate, and at just 32, he probably has a solid 10-15 years before he would need another round of lasik or glasses again.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I think if you’re a good candidate for it, it sounds pretty awesome. Money saving over the course of a few years, but also, the convenience of just not having to deal with it!

  8. Cindy says:

    I’m in that weird gray area where my vision isn’t that bad, but my astigmatism is bad enough to cause headaches. I’m legally required to wear glasses when driving, and I’ve recently started wearing them at work. The rest of the time I pretty much wing-it (who really needs to see the clock on the weekends anyways!). I thought briefly about switching back to contacts this year, and going with dailies (I’ve had problems with eye infections in the past as well). But toric lenses are super expensive, and my vision is better with glasses than contacts. I’m not loving how I look in glasses, but I’m getting used to it.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, that was my dad for most of his life. I’m just nearsighted as hell, no astigmatism. But my dad recently had to get surgery for incipient cataracts, in the course of which they fixed his astigmatism, so now he just has reading glasses. He says it’s pretty cool 🙂

  9. Ugh, I so hear you! Three of the six of us wear glasses, and it can really be spendy! I can still get away with the two week disposables, so that helps. I use the Acuvue Oasis and haven’t had any problems. My glasses are several years old, but I only wear them at night before bed, so I don’t care too much and still choose to spend my yearly allotment from insurance on contacts. I have a feeling that’s going to bite me in the tail one day, though. 🙂

  10. Wow, I didn’t realize how costly contact lenses were. But it sounds like the daily pair make you feel good and correct your vision so I would say all worth it. And it’s nice to have some insurance coverage. I don’t need glasses or contacts at this point in my life and I guess I never realized what a savings that is!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      yes, eye care is super expensive!

  11. Debt Hater says:

    Everyone always tells me to get Lasik, but I’m always skeptical of it. They say how great their experience was. But I’m already extremely sensitive to light in the dark, so I don’t want to make it so that I can’t drive at night or anything!

    My insurance offers a $100 discount on contacts or glasses each year and they cover the actual eye doctor appointment. The only thing I have to pay for is if I want to get the advanced picture taken of my eyes instead of having to deal with them being dilated. I think I still end up paying around $300 a year in contacts though. They’re way too expensive.

    There’s actually been talks about the manufacturers essentially price fixing/being a cartel: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/27/business/contact-lens-makers-and-discounters-tussle-over-price-setting.html?_r=0

    1. thesingledollar says:

      that is SUPER interesting — I didn’t know that. Thanks! I wonder how the lawsuits will come out.

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