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LASIK or Contacts/Glasses – Which is More Expensive?

Nearly 65% of Americans have some sort of vision impairment. For over a decade, I also was visually impaired and needed to wear contacts or glasses in order to see normally throughout my everyday life.

While looking at my Net Worth Updates page, you may have noticed a major blip in January of 2017.

How did it drop that much when the market was doing so well?

In a few words, I made an investment. Not a regular old investment that lost me a bunch of money in an instant for no reason (looking at you Bitcoin), but an investment in myself. An investment in a more comfortable and enjoyable life.

After wearing contacts for over 10 years, I chose to get LASIK surgery.

Disclaimer: I am no doctor, merely sharing what I found through research for my own procedure. Please consult with a licensed eye doctor before making any decisions on LASIK surgery.

What is LASIK?

LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (it’s a mouthful), is a procedure in which a surgeon will use a laser to re-shape components of the eye in order to help one see better.

This surgery is very useful if you have some sort of vision impairment, typically myopia (if you have trouble seeing things at a distance), that would require you to wear corrective lenses (contacts or glasses).

While there are risks with any surgery, LASIK has a very high success rate of 90-99%, with patients reporting satisfaction with their surgery 96% of the time.

Even dogs can get LASIK! (seriously)

Why LASIK?

The reasons people get LASIK can vary. Here are several:

  • Dislike of wearing glasses or contacts
  • Active Lifestyle (Swimming, Hiking, etc)
  • Comfort/Convenience
  • Cost

Personally, I chose to get LASIK basically on all the above categories.

Firstly, I never liked wearing glasses. I don’t mind seeing them on others, but I just never liked how they looked or felt on myself. I had a pair (one over 10 years), but would rarely wear them and only around my apartment at night when no one but family could see me.

Thus, I wore contacts from middle school onwards. This helped with my active lifestyle playing sports throughout those years, and during the day, I rarely noticed them.

However, one thing that annoyed me to no end was how dry they would get after wearing them all day. No matter what type I would wear, daily, bi-weekly or monthly, they would always dry out after about 12 hours of wearing them.

This meant constantly having to rub my eyes and having general discomfort at night. Whether I was being active with friends, watching a movie or even reading a book, I felt constantly bothered.

In addition, there were many simple things that became a hassle since I was wearing contacts. For instance, it’s a lazy weekend afternoon, and you want lay back to take a quick nap? You can’t!

With contacts it’s strongly advised that you always take them out before going to sleep, otherwise you risk infection, or losing your contact within your eyelid (its happened to me before – definitely not fun).

Finally, another reason to get LASIK is cost.

What are the LASIK costs?

The cost of LASIK varies from surgeon to surgeon depending on their experience and the technology they use. Typical ranges you’ll see are from $1,000 to $4,000 per eye though the average is about $2,000/eye.

Personally, as this is your ability to see we’re talking about here, I would not recommend going the cheap route.

My own cost was at the average of $2,000 per eye, totaling $4,000 in all. This cost included a pre consultation, the operation, and several post operation visits.

A couple of family friends had the surgery and recommended my surgeon, and after researching on my own, I decided to get it done.

I had saved up for the procedure and thus paid the entire cost in full (hence the Net Worth drop). I also was able to pay on my credit card so I got some major points back!

There are financing options if needed, some with 0% interest rates if it’s short term, though longer terms can carry up to 20% interest rates, which I would not recommend.

If you have an HSA or FSA, you can use these and the pre-tax dollars to pay for the procedure as well.

Cost Comparison

Now, the amount of time that LASIK surgery will be effective varies from person to person. My surgeon told me that most people will be fine until their mid to late 40’s, in which case natural aging could change your vision again.

Thus, when I was doing a cost comparison, I assumed I would get 20 years out of this. Who knows where the technology will be 20 years from now so it’s tough to project past that. Worst case if I need it, I’d go back to contacts/glasses.

The average American with contacts spends around $225-$300 per year on contacts. We’ll say $250/year. Over 20 years this totals to $5,000 over 20 years!! That’s not even including the other costs such as contact solution ($50-100/year), eye doctor visits, vision insurance plan costs, etc.

The average American who wears glasses spends around $200 on a new pair of glasses every 1-2 years. We’ll go with $100/year for comparison’s sake. That’s only $2,000 over 20 years, though also not including eye doctor visits and vision plan costs.

It also doesn’t include if you prefer specialized prescription sunglasses, which would obviously cost more as well.

How does that compare?

Cost over 20 years:

  • LASIK – $4,000 (no need for vision insurance plan/eye doctor visits)
  • Contacts – $5,000 (+ vision insurance plan/eye doctor visits)
  • Glasses – $2,000 (+ vision insurance plan/eye doctor visits)

Well, the direct cost comparison is if you wear contacts, LASIK would be cheaper. If you wear contacts AND glasses, LASIK would also be cheaper (by A LOT more).

If you only wear glasses, it may be more expensive to get LASIK, though that would largely depend on your yearly rates for doctor visits and vision insurance plans.

*Comparison also does not account for inflation over 20 yrs. on glasses/contact prices.

Is LASIK for you?

Ultimately, this is a personal choice. Many are perfectly happy with wearing glasses and a few find cheaper than average ways to do it. Also, some may not like the idea of having surgery to correct their vision. I get that.

For those that do not like wearing contacts/glasses (like me), but thought that LASIK would be too expensive, it’s actually much closer to, or cheaper than, the total of what you’re currently paying for.

To get the most ROI, it’s better to have the surgery in your 20’s, so you have more years to enjoy and benefit from it. You can still get it in their 30’s though, and have 10-20 years to benefit.

In the end, it’s all about quality of life. If having LASIK would help your everyday life, from comfort and convenience to lifestyle, I think it’s worth it. (As long as you don’t go into debt for it!)

One year later and I’m extremely satisfied with the results. Wearing contacts was becoming a real hassle, and now there is one less thing I have to think about every day.

In my opinion, what’s the use of becoming Financially Independent if you’re unhappy along the way?

I’d love to hear the thoughts from people who wear glasses/contacts or have had or thought about having LASIK!

If anyone has further questions I’d love to help answer from my own experience in the comments or via email.

This is a very basic overview, if you’d like an in depth summary of it (from actual doctors) take a look at The FDA for more details. This will include resources on LASIK as well as FAQ’s if you are interested in having the surgery.

Disclaimer: I am no doctor, merely sharing what I found through research for my own procedure. Please consult with a licensed eye doctor before making any decisions on LASIK surgery.

7 thoughts to “LASIK or Contacts/Glasses – Which is More Expensive?”

  1. Ugh, I have GOT to start saving up for this, especially since my eyes finally aren’t changing a ton year-to-year anymore. I don’t mind glasses, now that I’ve decided the way to go is very obvious, fun frames instead of trying to hide them, and for the most part contacts are fine for me. But I would LOVE a world where I wake up and can magically see more than 6 inches past my face in the morning (or where that occurring isn’t a bad thing that means I accidentally fell asleep in my contacts)!

    I’ve been wearing glasses since third grade and contacts since eighth grade–it’s way past time for LASIK.

    1. I would definitely recommend it! Like you said the feeing of waking up in the morning and being able to see clearly is so nice.

      It seems as though you don’t mind wearing the contacts/glasses as much as I did, which is also good. I was just so done with them that I ended up pulling the trigger! Very happy with the outcome! 🙂

  2. I’ve been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember. Contacts were never for me, I attempted to try them once at an eye doctor’s office but simply could not get them in my eyes comfortably.

    I’m used to the look and feel of glasses. Playing sports with them wasn’t as bad as I thought. I played baseball from childhood into high school and never really had an issue. These days, I play golf (the glasses are necessary or I wouldn’t be able to see anything) and some pickup basketball at the gym. I’m careful while playing basketball and have had them knocked off a few times, but these particular frames are very flexible and haven’t been damaged yet (knock on wood!).

    I’ve always thought about LASIK but wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit the money for it. Personally, I’m also not sure that I would be satisfied with only 20 or so years out of it. If my vision is going to get bad again, what’s the point? But that’s just me. I know it is hugely successful, but in the back of my mind there is always this thought that, what if I’m the one person where something goes wrong? I guess that’s just something I have to overcome.

    I agree with much of your post, but one thing I’d say is you should still budget for eye doctor visits even if you have good vision or have had LASIK. There may be no need for vision correction, but a yearly eye exam is a good idea. Eye doctors can find signs and symptoms of more serious conditions elsewhere in the body.

    Keep up the good work! Really enjoying your blog.

    1. Definitely understandable, I honestly had those thoughts regarding worst case too, because you never know if you’ll be in that low percentage that does go poorly. I think had I gotten used to wearing glasses and liked the look I may not have gone through with this

      That is a good point regarding the eye doctor visits. I did not sign up for a vision plan this year but I will definitely need to going forwards as you’re right, it’s always good to get those checked out regardless.

      Thanks for the feedback and I appreciate it!

  3. The one part you left out here, to be fair, is that most people who get LASIK still need some kind of corrective lens eventually, even if much less than before. Even so, the cost seems totally worth it to me, but I just can’t get myself to signing up to have eye surgery. Maybe some day.

    1. Very true, I had tried to take that into account by only looking the cost comparison over twenty years (as after your vision is likely to change again). I imagine at that point I’ll go to glasses, I just can’t picture going back to contacts after having so many years of not having to deal with them!

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