Personal Finance 

Is LASIK Laser Eye Surgery Worth It?

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EyeballNearly 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 like 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, after a quick analysis, it’s actually not as expensive as you might thing.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Let’s say the typical Lasik procedure costs around $4500 – that includes all expenses related to the procedure and recovery. $4500 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 an FSA for the purposes of this analysis because you can use an FSA on both the Lasic 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 weren’t to do Lasik, I’d probably wear contacts for at least another twenty years. I currently 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 is going to cost $280 a year. You can probably find it for cheaper, around $50 a box, so the actual price is closer to around $200 a year.

Vision Insurance: I believe typical vision insurance through an employer is around $12-15 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 around $80 a year after insurance.

Glasses: Glasses are a little trickier to calculate because most people don’t get new glasses each year. Let’s say you get a new pair every three years, which is conservative enough an estimate, and those new glasses cost you $150. Over twenty years, that’s around seven pairs of glasses. That’s $1050 in glasses, assuming you don’t need replacements anytime soon.

Contact Lens Solution & Supplies: I used to use Opti-Free Replenish Solution, $15 for two 10 oz bottles. I’d conservatively use one bottle a month, so you’d need around $90 in solution each year. Now, I actually 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. $110 for contact lens solution each year.

To recap:

  • 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 – $4850.

Ok, let’s not ignore simplicity and factor in the time value of money with an interest rate of 3%. 20 equal payments of $242.50 (that’s $4850 divided by 20) has a present day value of $3607.78. In essence, if you were to do Lasik for $4500, it really only “costs” you $892.21 – less than $500 an eye.

I’m getting the procedure on Thursday. 🙂

(Photo: neurotic_camel)

{ 33 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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33 Responses to “Is LASIK Laser Eye Surgery Worth It?”

  1. Melissa says:

    Please let me know how it goes. A someone who has worn glasses since 3rd grade/8yrs old and contacts since 16 yrs old, I’m pulling the trigger this year. I’ve got my FSA set, the doctor choosen and a November date in mind. My vision has gotten progressively worse over the years and I’ve always been a tad frightened at the possibility of losing what little I had but I now know enough people to agree to this. Please let us know of your experience.

    • Jim says:

      Talk with your eye doctor because I know that your prescription has to be stable before they can do the operation.

  2. Cole Brodine says:

    I used a company called Qualsight (linked to me from my health insurance provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield). It got the price of my custom lasik down to about $2800 for BOTH eyes. That doesn’t include any saving from using the FSA either. Definitely worth checking with your insurance company to see if they have a cost saving program.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    You can’t forget that there’s a decent chance you will need a touch up later on to fix eye problems that have a chance of occurring in the future.

    Overall, I think it’s a decent deal. Only reasons I haven’t thought further about it is I’m concerned about dry eyes. Although they can figure that out, you have to make sure to go to a decent place. Plus my eyes haven’t stopped changing yet (even though I’m 30), so I can’t probably get it done anyway.

  4. NoNonsenseNick says:

    Typically there is a lifetime check-up coverage that can be packaged with the surgery. Don’t really like most insurances but I would take the plunge when it is something as valuable as your eyes!

  5. partee875 says:

    I’ve been having the same problems with my contacts lately too. I’m 26 and it’s been a few years since my eyes have changed and I have been looking into this as well. Best of luck Jim and let us know how it went!

  6. Texas Wahoo says:

    The analysis is different for permanent (gas permeable) contacts, because you only have to get them when your perscription changes or you lose them. They cost between $200-300, but they can last for many years if your eyes don’t change too much from year to year.

  7. evelyn says:

    I have several friends who had Lasix surgery in the last five years, and all of them have had one kind of problem or another. The worst is constant watery eyes, day and night, which cannot be corrected. I used to wear contacts, which became difficult, then switched to glasses. I’m old enough to be your mom, and my motherly advice is to remember that your eyes are nothing to fool around with, task chances with, or risk. Wearing glasses is convenient, economical, and safe. What’s all the rage today (and for what? convenience?) may end up being a huge regret later.

  8. Amanda says:

    I had Lasik over 2 years ago. Knowing what I know now – if it had cost TWICE as much I would still do it. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m thankful for my wondrous miracle vision every single day of my life. It all depends on your prescription though. My left eye was really bad and my insurance wouldn’t cover that lens. So my glasses were about $550 a year and I had contacts too… so another $200 a year, plus the exam $45, plus the vision insurance at $12/month… I was spending nearly $1000 a year and my Lasik was about $1200 per eye. That’s the best return on investment I’ll probably ever see! (Pun intended.)

  9. ~L. says:

    I had lasik 10 years ago and very happy with it. No side effects. Prior to the surgery, I wore contacts and eventually it gives me headaches everyday. Back then, I paid 1500 both eyes. very well worth. If you’re in Chicago, the recommended place is Lasek Institute on Grand Ave- very professional staff.

  10. Brianne says:

    I had the laser eye surgery six years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. It was about $3200 for both eyes and included all follow-up appointments for the next year. My eyesight wasn’t horrible but it was difficult to correct because one eye was far-sighted and one eye was near-sighted and I had astigmatism in both. I could never find contact lenses that would really do the job so I had to wear glasses all the time. I work in the environmental field and I couldn’t easily wear a respirator with glasses or contacts. Now I can see the clock when I wake up in the middle of the night. I can fall asleep reading in bed. It’s wonderful.

  11. Tim Hawkins says:

    I did mine in 2003 just before a sailboat race to Hawaii because I feared I could not be able to see in a moment of boat trouble with my glasses. And, it worked out that way when we found the other two guys on my watch got vertigo on the dark nights at sea, so I had to drive. Just not having to deal with glasses or contacts on a daily basis is compensation enough.


    • Jim says:

      I learned first hand how difficult it is to be out on the water with contacts. I went jetskiing a year ago and it was almost impossible to keep my eyes open because the salt spray and wind would dry out my contacts.

  12. Jason says:

    I had LASIK three years ago, and it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. My prescription before was -1.75, which isn’t that bad, but I still needed to wear contacts every day. Since my procedure, I have perfect 20/20 vision and haven’t had any lasting complications.

    Even if you can’t justify it through purely financial reasons, it is just _SO_ nice to be able to go to bed or wake-up without having to put my fingers into my eye.

  13. mannymacho says:

    I wonder what will happen to the price/demand of contacts and glasses over the years as more and more people opt for LASIK. I also wonder if vision insurance for group plans would ever cover this…

  14. saladdin says:

    PRK, 1.5 years ago paid 3100 total. The BEST money I ever spent that did not involve 3 members of the University of Texas cheerleader squad.

  15. JXZ says:

    Another aspect of the cost is that Lasik surgery is a qualified expense under flexible spending account (FSA), further reducing the costs. Sure glasses/contacts fall under that category too, but perhaps getting it done once for good is less hassle than filing individual claim forms for all the glass/contact purchases.

  16. Marilyn says:

    Not to rain on parades but every single person I know who had Lasik now wears glasses or contacts at least part-time, most of them require correction full-time. Most of them only got a few years free from eyeglasses and contacts. Knowing this, I would never pay for Lasik.

    • Shirley says:

      This also happened with our son. It seemed great at first, but four years later he was back to glasses.

  17. Jane says:

    I had one eye done a year ago, didn’t need it in the 2nd. It’s been great no problems what so ever. Mine cost $1800 for the one eye (would have been $3200 for both).

  18. calshana says:

    Many vision plans and medical plans have a 10-20% discount on the cost of lasik if you go to one of their listed vendors which might be something to look into.

    Also, what some people do if their FSA limit isn’t high enough is to put money in one year, get one eye done around Dec 31 and then get the other eye done on Jan 2. However, always consult with the doctor first before you put aside that much money to make sure that you are a candidate for the surgery.

    I’ve also known some people that live near the Canada border that find that it is financially worthwhile to drive there to get it done.

    Sadly, lasik is not an option for me – pupils are too big and a weird astigmatism but I keep waiting for further advances so that I can get it done too.

  19. govenar says:

    I think I’ve bought glasses 3 times in the past 17 years, and I don’t wear contacts. If it’s 4 times in 20 years, at say $250 each, that’s only $1000. The price of LASIK isn’t my biggest concern though (even if it was free I’d be hesitant to do it). I’m more concerned about complications that might not be reversible. And my eyes are already dry, so I’d be worried that LASIK would make them even worse.

  20. The Borrower says:

    I just wanted to let you know, I had Lasik May of 2003. My glasses and contacts cost me about $600-$700, without solutions a year. The cost for the Lasik was $3200 and the Dr. offered 0% financing back then. Doing the math, you can quickly see I saved a bundle since then.

    NONE of the cash savings even comes close to the increase in my quality of life. Congrats on your surgery, you won’t be disappointed!

    FYI – you state the savings for “the rest of your life”, I thought you should know that Lasik does not help with the eventual need for reading glasses. You will probably need those as you age.

  21. Jenny says:

    A lot of people have success with Lasik, and it looks like you’ve already made your decision, so good luck!

    However…I had mine done a little over 10 years ago by a prominent doctor, and it cost me $5000 for both eyes. Even from purely a financial perspective, it did not work out for me – but that also has to do with my prescription.

    My vision was poor, both eyes at -6.50 plus astigmatism. I’d worn glasses since the 1st grade and contacts since the 7th (started with soft lenses then to gas permeables)…then went in for Lasik in my late 20’s (about 10 years ago).

    Because my vision was so poor to begin with (the worse your prescription, the more cornea they’ll have to shave off), Lasik was able to improve my vision only to about -1.50. Although Lasik completely corrected my astigmatism, I still have to wear contacts (soft)/glasses now, even after surgery.

    So…other than being able to see my alarm clock in the morning (which I couldn’t do before), it really hasn’t made much difference in my life since I still have to wear contacts/glasses. Contacts after Lasik is discouraged by many doctors, but so far I have not had issues.

    There are some slight issues I’ve experienced after Lasik. None have detracted significantly from the quality of life…but here are some minor annoyances. (1) Dry eyes – I have to use drops every day as much as possible. (2) Poor night vision – although not horrible, I try to have my husband drive at night if possible. If there are no street lights, it gets pretty bad. (3) Poor vision in general when there is little light. I notice this most at night when I look at the night sky…I can’t see the constellations as well as I used to. Also, the ceiling on the Sistine Chapel was much harder to see after vision correction…which was pretty sad. I’ll have to invest in a set of binoculars.

    I do not have any halo/glow problems like some people report.

    I’ve talked to an optometrist friend since then (I didn’t know him previous to surgery), and he says he generally does not recommend Lasik – he says PRK has a much better success/satisfaction rate, and it won’t alter the cornea as much as Lasik. There is a longer recovery time with PRK…but these are your EYES you are talking about, and for the rest of your life! Financial reasons should play a role, but finance should not the biggest reason…so talk to more people if you can, and make your decision carefully.

  22. Jen says:

    My husband and I were both near-sighted, and he had Lasik 6 years ago but I did not. He’s been satisfied, despite occasional dry eyes even now. However, as we are growing older (both in early 40’s), our close-up vision is changing. His Lasik eyes cannot adjust to reading small print close-up, but for me it’s easy to simply look below my glasses or take them off to read the fine print. Just something more to consider.

  23. CB says:

    I had Lasik in 2000. Paid three grand. For two years it was great. Now I’m wearing glasses constantly. Night driving is very problematic and at times dangerous. Another thing: while I wore soft contacts pre-Lasik, I can’t do that afterwards. I was given the option of hard contacts, and they absolutely suck.

    I would not do it again, knowing what I know now…

  24. Deanna says:

    I had it done at 52 and wish I had done it years ago. Best thing I ever did for myself in this regard. Taking my son to have his done so he does not go through life spending thousands on glasses and contacts. Biggest problem? LOL Reaching for my glasses each morning before I got out of bed. Hard habit to break!

  25. Katherine says:

    @Jim: Okay so … what’s the update? You had the procedure done … and??!!

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