Is LASIK surgery worth it?
How does the cost compare with a lifetime of contact lenses?
This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.
Nearly five years ago, I considered LASIK eye surgery but I never pulled the trigger. It wasn't that I was afraid or concerned, I was just used to contact lenses, they didn't bother me, and I felt that I didn't need to fix something that wasn't broken.
Fast-forward to this year and my contacts are becoming less and less comfortable. On several occasions my eyes have been really bothered by them to the point I keep them out most of the day when I'm working from home. The only times I put them in are when I play sports and when we go out. It's just more convenient.
The most common concern when it comes to LASIK is the price. It's a several-thousand-dollar procedure and, as is the case with anything like that, not something you decide on without some deliberation. Fortunately, a quick analysis shows it's actually not as expensive as you might think. Post continues after video.
Cost benefit analysis
Let's say the typical LASIK procedure costs about $4,500, including all expenses related to the procedure and recovery. That $4,500 sounds like a lot, but when you compare it with the cost of glasses and contacts for the rest of your life, it's actually pretty cheap.
Note: I'm going to exclude the use of a flexible spending account for the purposes of this analysis because you can use an FSA for both the LASIK procedure and for glasses and contacts. I figure it's pretty much even for our purposes.
Cost of contact lenses. I'm 30 years old and if I didn't do LASIK, I'd probably wear contacts for at least another 20 years. I use the Air Optix Night & Day Aqua, which goes for $70 a box retail. One box contains a six-month supply of contacts, so a full year's supply for both eyes is going to cost $280. You can probably find them cheaper, about $50 a box, so the actual price is closer to $200 a year.
Vision insurance. Typical vision insurance through an employer is about $5 to $12 a month for one person, which is balanced out by a $120 contact lens or glasses benefit. In other words, you pay for the insurance and make it back on contacts or glasses. The regular checkups are essentially free. That drops the actual cost of contacts to about $80 a year after insurance.
Glasses. Glasses are a little trickier to calculate because most people don't get new glasses every year. Let's say you get a new pair every three years, and those new glasses cost you $150. Over 20 years, that's about seven pairs of glasses. That's $1,050 in glasses, assuming you don't need replacements sooner.
Contact lens solution and supplies. I used to use Opti-Free Replenish solution, $15 for two 10-ounce bottles. I'd conservatively use one bottle a month, so you'd need about $90 for solution each year. Now I use Clear Care No Rub Cleaning & Disinfecting Solution ($16) and then rinse with Bausch & Lomb's Sensitive Eyes Plus Saline ($5). It adds maybe another $20 (for the saline) to the annual budget.
- Contact lenses -- $80 a year.
- Contact lens solution -- $110 a year.
- Glasses -- $150 every three years.
For simplicity, ignore the time value of money and let's just sum up the total cost for contacts over 20 years: $4,850.
OK, let's not ignore simplicity and factor in the time value of money with an interest rate of 3%. Twenty equal payments of $242.50 (that's $4,850 divided by 20) has a present-day value of $3,607.78. In essence, if you were to do LASIK for $4,500, it really only "costs" you $892.21 -- less than $500 an eye.
I made an appointment to have the procedure done.
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I had it done 6 years ago for about $2500 and it was even less because of my healthcare spending account.
I considered the costs a non-issue. The quality of life is amazing. No worries about contacts, about broken / dirty glasses. Fogging of contacts or glasses - never again.
It is a liberating procedure (provided it is successful). It changed my life and allowed me to enjoy activities without stress over vision. Also, the ability to wake up in the AM and see is worth it on its own.
I had mine done last year. It is so awesome to be able to see. One time I dropped my glasses out in the rain and it was dark. I was crawling around in the cold rain getting muddy and I thought to my self " I am that guy that cant see!" Now after the surgery I get up dont have to fumble for glasses and can look outside without having my glasses on. On hot days you come in out of the heat and dont worry about glasses fogging up either. It really is a blessing to have this technology.
For the record, my eyes were steadily getting worse. I was legally blind without my glasses. I spent at least $120 a pair and that was as of 2001. I was forced many times to get new frames with the new lens due to frames no longer carried. Due to my occupation lens were scratched and chipped if I didn't wear additional eye protection, which meant looking thru two sets of lens. The lens weight left painful dents on the bridge of my nose. I gave myself the Lasik as a Christmas present in 2001. I wore glasses since 1966. Aside from needing reading glasses now (I am an old fart after all) I still see 20/20. I paid $1700 an eye, $3400 total. If it lasts to 60, it paid for itself in money. In personal comfort and ease, it paid for itself in 3 days. To never have to find/feel for my glasses in the AM, to see my face to shave in a mirror. To drive with sunglasses, swim and see the pool edge. Thank God for Lasik.
Yes, there is a "breakeven" point where cost isn't justifiable. But for me, it was the best decision of my life. And, the most enjoyable.
I do have to wear reading glasses now inside restaurants and dark interiors, but in full sun and well lit environments, I read very well. I work on computers with no problem. A minor inconvenience, but I'll take it over the alternative.
I had the surgery done when I was 36. I'm now 41 and need to go back for "adjustment" which will cost an addition amount. Apparently, this is the norm. This is definitely not a permanent solution. It's just a long-term solution to not having to carry around contact lens cases and saline.
My brother who is nearsighted and is now 45 had the surgery done when he was 32. He is now wearing glasses once again and says he will not go through the surgery anymore.
My boss had his done when he was 47, he is now 53 and wearing glasses again.
See the pattern?
You're missing one VITAL piece of information:
The simple joy of being able to open your eyes and SEE. I had my LASIK surgery done 5 years ago. With my VSP, it was about $3000 total. I still tell people...it was the best money I've ever spent. My glasses (replaced every two years sadly) were $400 a pair; and my contacts were $30 a month.
I CAN SEE; I CAN SEE!! Its a great feeling!
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