How to Spend Money Wisely » Shopping

Your eyeballs shouldn’t be so expensive

As the cliche goes, your health is the most important thing you can have. And as someone who spends a lot of time looking at stuff, eyesight is definitely important to me. I suppose it’s important to you, too. Oh heck, it’s important to all of us. Everyone’s a winner!
I recently lost a bunch of weight- 50 pounds worth to be exact. As a glasses wearer my entire life, I was starting to wonder whether life would be better wearing contacts instead of glasses. Would the ladies throw themselves at me? Would my sexiness continue to make the dudes jealous? There was only one way to find out. A few months ago, I took the plunge and made my first of what would be many eye appointments.

The process

It all started with a phone call to the eye place (like I’m going to type out optometrist more than once) and a beginning $85 eye check. They took some really cool pictures of the inside of my eye, checking it out to make sure I didn’t have any tumors or cataracts.
It turns out my prescription had barely changed at all, a fact that wasn’t so surprising considering the fact I could see just fine. They adjusted my right eye a little, but that was it.
Knowing this new information, the eye place went ahead and ordered a trial pair of contacts. Once they came in, I was then charged $99 for the contacts, a lesson on putting them in, and a follow-up exam a couple of weeks later to make sure they weren’t giving me any problem.
What I’d do differently: $85 is expensive for an eye exam, but I live in a small town with only 2 similarly priced options. I should have gone into the nearest big city to get a cheaper eye exam. Even if I have to pay them for my prescription, it still would have come out cheaper.
Plus, I could have easily done without the ridiculous $99 lesson on how to put my contacts in. The company that makes my contacts will give you a trial pair for free, all you have to do is ask. Once I had that trial pair in hand, I could have just asked one of many people I know who wear contacts for a lesson on how to put them in. While it’s important to have a method in mind, getting good at putting contacts in just takes practice. A month after getting them, I was pretty much a pro at inserting and removing them.

Buying the contacts

After my second check-up (where the doctor found nothing wrong with my eyes or the contacts- shocking, I know) the eye doctor told me he was just going to order a year’s worth of contacts for me. Because I’d done my research beforehand, I knew my particular brand would cost me around $200 for the year if I ordered them online. Wait for a second, how much would it cost to order?
Naturally, the eye doctor didn’t have the exact price off the top of his head. He said they would be “around $200.” Okay, that sounded reasonable. But how much for only 6 months worth? That would be $125. That appealed to me much more, since hopefully, my work benefits will have kicked in by then, meaning my next set would have been essentially free. So I requested 6 months’ worth.
A few days later, the eye place calls. They leave some sort of cryptic message about the contacts being more than quoted, which was really short on details. I head down there and discover they ordered a year’s worth on contacts, and that they wanted $250 for them. At this point I was getting really sick of the place, so I just sighed and paid the bill. I’m a bad PFer, I know.
And then, they reminded me to be extra diligent not to wear them longer than the recommended 30 days and to come back for a follow-up exam in three months. Guess who isn’t doing either of those things?
What I’d do differently: I’d avoid the eye place as much as possible. You think, as a doctor, that the optometrist is recommending things for your own good. This is not the case. Remember that the next time you step foot in the glasses shop.

How much I wasted

I spent $50 more for the contacts than I would have online. Add the $99 waste of time insertion lesson and we’re up to $150. Luckily I didn’t fall for the 3-month check-up, or I’d be down an additional $85. I also could have saved money on the eye exam, except driving to the city has both a monetary and time cost. Anyway, I’m definitely down $150.

Why eye places will never change

The particularly frugal of you should be outraged. What rip-off optometrists are! These charges are ridiculous. They will never change. Here’s why.
The vast majority of us have benefit plans that cover at least a portion of these costs. Because the insurance company eventually reimburses you, who cares what you pay. Which is why a small-town eye place is a pretty good business to be in.

Comments

  1. krantcents

    The lesson here is never feel rushed into something. I tried contacts years ago, but could not keep them. My eyes produced too much protein that I could not keep them clean.

  2. Jacklen

    As far as I see it (pun intended), your biggest mistake was accepting, and paying for, the 1-year supply of lenses. Seems to be it would be pretty easy to stand up on your hind legs and say – “No, I only ordered 6 months and that is all I want. I’m not taking or paying for any more”. They cannot make you buy what you do not want. Presumably, you had an order slip or statement from them to document what you requested. If not, then that was your second major mistake. JMO

  3. skye

    I hope you are not implying that you intend to wear the 30-day lenses for longer than that. Yes, you may be able to do so, but not for much. It depends on your wearing habits (if you remove and clean them during their lifetime, or not) and, most importantly, your eye chemistry. Most extended wear lenses are recommended for two weeks. Some brands allow an absolute maximum of 30 days. You may not even be able to wear yours that long. The lenses accumulate proteins, lipids and other deposits – slowly break down and disintegrating. They are designed to last safely for a maximum of 30 days for most people. Sometime after that, they start to come apart. If they do this while in your eye – needless to say, it is not a good thing. Plus, even before this occurs, the build-up of deposits on the lens fosters infection and inflammation of the eye. It also reduces the ability of oxygen to pass through the lens and reach the cornea. If you wish to take this sort of risk with your eyes and eyesight, go right ahead – it is a free country. But don’t encourage others to be so foolish. Yes, you can run your car for years without changing the oil. But if you are never able to buy another car for the rest of your life, you’ll be pretty sorry someday. You can’t go buy another pair of eyes. (FYI – I’m not an optometrist or anything like that.)

  4. DjS

    While you may be quite comfortable risking the health of your eyes to save a few dollars, and that is certainly your right, I think it is irresponsible to cause others to feel foolish and potentially ripped off if they choose to not take the shortcuts you now advocate. And, just to state up front, I am not an optometrist, ophthalmologist, optician, or anyone in any way connected with the eye or vision care industry.
    A contact lens is a small piece of material you are placing directly on the cornea of your eye. This is not an insignificant thing. Some people do have major problems with insertion, removal or both. Some people have issues with their lenses not staying in place and becoming trapped behind their eyelid. These situations can cause damage to the cornea and lead to infection. In addition, I assume you were coached on proper cleaning procedures for your lenses. This is critical as improper cleaning can easily damaging your lenses or your eyes. Sure, your friends can tell you what they do, and they can teach you to drive, too. But it is still better to get initial instruction from a professional. This makes sure you get the proper procedures right off, and nothing critical is forgotten. And, if something goes wrong, the professional is much better equipped to address it.
    Your friends may have been perfectly able to teach you, but maybe not. More importantly, how was the optometrist supposed to know this? An optometrist is legally bound to ensure quality care and safety for your eyes. If s/he was to fail to provide adequate instruction on the use and care of your contact lenses, then s/he could be held responsible (and subject to malpractice) if you were to experience major issues leading to infection or even blindness. This is the purpose of the follow-up one week after the initial fitting, as well as the three-month follow-up. Again, it is your right to forego these check-ups. But, tell me, how will you know if there is a problem? How will you know if the lenses are developing micro-tears and are damaging your cornea? How will you know if there is too much protein accumulating on the lenses and you are not able to keep them clean (as krantcents experienced)? How will you know if your eye is reacting to the lenses and is actually changing shape (it does happen)? Oh, sure, eventually things will become uncomfortable enough that you will stop wearing the lenses – and maybe even go back to the optometrist to check it out. But the damage will be done by then. Is the potential of lifelong damage to your eyesight worth the saving of a few bucks? Not in my books, and I am seriously one of the cheapest people going.
    Again, it must be made quite clear – the $99 covered the initial fitting, the instruction on insertion/removal and care, AND a follow-up fit check. So, two separate appointments at $50 each. Pretty much the going rate for any professional appointment these days. And, hey, once you are a lens “wear and care” expert, and have received assurance that all is well between your eyes and contact lenses, by all means, buy online. Absolutely. But know the limitations. Make sure you still get annual eye exams to check that nothing ‘unseen’ is happening.
    Thanks!

  5. kody @ Financial Money Tips

    haha this is why i don’t use contacts. Too much bullshit. Your article and these comments are exactly why i wear glasses. To me its a waste of money. For example, I bought an expensive pair of glasses 3 years ago for around the same price of a years supply of contacts. You can even get cheaper glasses than that nowdays. Its not all about saving money for me, but i just prefer glasses.

  6. Bob

    How did you loose so much weight? I tried your link “lost a bunch of weight” but there was connection problem.

  7. Scott

    Go for Lasik if you can. Cost me $1750 out the door. That was almost 4 years ago. I have never looked back to glasses and contacts.

  8. Alex

    It also reduces the ability of oxygen to pass through the lens and reach the cornea. If you wish to take this sort of risk with your eyes and eyesight, go right ahead – it is a free country. But don’t encourage others to be so foolish. Yes, you can run your car for years without changing the oil. But if you are never able to buy another car for the rest of your life, you’ll be pretty sorry someday.

  9. Peter

    This is not an insignificant thing. Some people do have major problems with insertion, removal or both. Some people have issues with their lenses not staying in place and becoming trapped behind their eyelid. These situations can cause damage to the cornea and lead to infection.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*