I didn’t get laser eye surgery to save money.
But in the long run — years from now — I will come out on top financially.
I no longer need to shell out hundreds of dollars for pricey rigid gas permeables. I’m free of the obscene costs of lens solutions, cleaners and protein deposit removers.
My wallet is spared the expenses my clumsy fingers rack up when carelessly dropping a contact down the drain or on the floor (and then stepping on it because I can’t see it).
I don’t need to purchase multiple pairs of glasses just to have one on-hand as backup.
With the costs of contacts, glasses, annual eye appointments, lens cleaners and the enhanced vision insurance plan I needed to keep those expenses manageable, my pre-surgery eyes cost me roughly $300 a year. Just over 13 years of those expenses would pay for the surgery.
I thought of all of these things before signing up for laser eye surgery. But that’s not why I did it.
Why I Got Laser Eye Surgery
I was sick of wearing contact lenses.
In my late 20s, my eyes had become noticeably drier than when I’d first started wearing them in the sixth grade. I was constantly rubbing my eyes, rinsing off my lenses and cursing them under my breath.
I popped them out the second I got home from work each day and was subsequently annoyed by the headache of having clear and fuzzy areas of my vision while wearing glasses.
I was tired of waking up in the mornings to decidedly less-than-crisp sights and irritated by my semi-blindness at pools and the beach.
I chose to spend almost $4,000 on a surgery I didn’t really need to enhance the quality of my life.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Still, I kept my Penny Hoarding wits about me. Here are six ways I saved on the procedure, and how you can too.
1. Do Your Research
Elective surgeries like laser eye surgery typically aren’t covered by health insurance.
However, my insurer did have a network of eye surgeons who had agreed to cap their fees at a certain amount. The doctor I chose actually had a deal that dropped the price even further.
Lesson learned: See what deals you can get through your insurer or directly from the surgeon.
2. Don’t Skimp on Quality
The procedure is super-fast and pain-free, but still… someone was cutting into my eyes.
There was no way I would risk my health by latching onto the lowest-priced physician who would do the job.
Rather, I found a reputable doctor with a long history of excellent results. Plus, he offered me lifetime, no-fee laser enhancement procedures, should I need them.
That gave me confidence in his skills and the comfort that I wouldn’t need to shell out more money in the future.
Lesson learned: Prioritize your health and your finances.
3. Plan Your Finances Ahead of the Surgery
As with any non-essential, major purchase, I made sure I had my financial ducks in a row before signing up for laser eye surgery.
My husband and I were both secure in our jobs, and we had a nice emergency fund in place.
We truly could afford to spend the money on the procedure without digging ourselves into a financial ditch.
Lesson learned: Only spend money you’re not going to miss.
4. Land a Package Deal
The nearly $4,000 sum I spent on my surgery included more than just the procedure itself.
Wrapped up in that fee were a handful of pre-op appointments with the surgeon, several post-op visits with my regular optometrist and all of the post-surgery swag I needed — like super-stylish grandma sunglasses and plastic eye shields.
Lesson learned: Know what you’re getting for the price and seek out a comprehensive package.
5. Look into Government Spending Accounts
My procedure wasn’t covered by insurance, but laser eye surgery is an eligible medical expense for Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Health Spending Account (HSA) funds.
By stashing cash in my FSA for the year of my surgery, I was able to skip paying taxes on the money I used to pay my bill.
I also learned I didn’t have to delay my surgery until I had contributed the whole $3,975 to my FSA.
Under the uniform coverage rule, you can be reimbursed up to the amount you plan to contribute for the whole year before you actually finish paying into your FSA.
I didn’t have to wait until December 2012, when my FSA would contain the full $3,975; I scheduled my surgery for the second week of January that year!
Lesson learned: Save big bucks by paying the bill from an FSA or HSA.
6. Ask for Free Samples and Coupons
The thrifty girl in me lapped this up.
You’re prescribed some seriously pricy medications for the weeks following surgery to ensure you ward off infection and keep your eyes properly moist.
For instance, I was required to take Restasis — easily $100-$200 a month — for several weeks before my surgery and a whopping three to six months after as my eyes healed.
Never one to pay retail and knowing that my doctors got all sorts of goodies from pharmaceutical companies, I shamelessly asked them — at every appointment — to hand over some Restasis samples. I also acquired some truly awesome coupons from both my doctors and a little Googling.
Those freebies and coupons reduced my final medication expenses by hundreds of dollars.
Lesson learned: Look for ways to sweeten the deal.
Your Turn: Have you had laser eye surgery? Were you able to save money on any expenses?
Megan Nye is a freelance writer and blogger with perfect vision and an eye for savings. She offers practical advice on seizing control of your time, making smart money choices and saving your home from the brink of chaos on her blog, Prioritized Living.