Why LASIK Surgery Is The Best $4,225 I’ve Ever Spent
As I lay on the operating table with a laser moving towards my eyeball, I knew I’d made the right decision. Ok, maybe I didn’t know it in that precise moment of mingled excitement and low grade terror, but I certainly knew it about an hour later when I could see without glasses or contacts for the first time in 16 years.
A little over two years ago, I decided to take the ocular plunge and get LASIK surgery on my eyeballs. It wasn’t cheap. But, it was the best money I’ve ever spent (other than whatever our marriage license cost, expenses related to adopting Frugal Hound, and our upcoming co-payment for Babywoods’ birth). But seriously, it’s up there with noteworthy life events.
At the tortured time of seventh grade–just when my pimples were at their zenith, braces adorned my teeth, and my self-confidence was abysmal–my eyesight began to deteriorate. Distances became murky and faces were obscured. I might’ve tried to tough it out were it not becoming increasingly obvious that I ran the risk of bringing middle school shame on myself by tripping over large, stationary objects I could no longer clearly discern. Admitting ocular defeat was self-preservation at its finest.
And so, I surrendered myself to the fact that I needed glasses. For unknown reasons, I selected odd little round glasses with gold frames, which for all the world looked like something an 80-year-old librarian would wear. At age 13, my tastes were questionable at best.
In high school I upgraded to contact lenses, which were a vast improvement over the aforementioned tragic glasses, but, I struggled with them daily. My eyes never fully acclimated to contacts and they were a constant source of irritation and discomfort. I tried all manner of different cleaning solutions and methods over the years, but to no avail. I also experimented with various styles of lenses from disposable to non-disposable and sundry options in between. No matter what I did, my eyes always felt grainy and vexed when wearing contacts.
In college, I finally promoted myself to a much cuter pair of black framed glasses that I enjoyed wearing. This solved the torment of contacts but created new complications vis-à-vis various pursuits of mine. Ballet, yoga, and running were all relatively challenging for me to partake in with glasses constantly slipping down my nose and clattering to the floor.
Plus, I had to wear gigantic sunglasses atop my glasses when I went outside (being too cheap as I was to buy prescription sunglasses). I later learned the wonders of cheap online eyeglasses and was able to source a number of cute pairs (sunglasses included) from Zenni Optical for about $10 a pair. These, however, weren’t a perfect fit and the prescription somehow wasn’t quite right (but hey, what can you expect for $10).
I’d accepted imperfect eyes as a part of my life, but it was a persistent annoyance. Wearing glasses and contacts is most certainly not a hardship or a great encumbrance, but it was an ongoing frustration.
When Mr. FW and I started hiking in earnest a few years ago, my eye dilemma became even more pronounced. My contacts would dry out excessively on mountain-tops, but wearing glasses that fogged up in the cold, slipped down my nose, and didn’t allow for sunglass application were even more aggravating.
And that’s when I began to consider LASIK surgery…
A friend of mine had the surgery and described it as life changing and transformative. I thought this might be a bit overblown, but I was intrigued. And in my ongoing quest to frugalize life, I started to wonder about my annual costs related to contact lenses, cleaning solutions, and glasses. I was buying my contacts online, which is far cheaper than from an optometrist and I got my solutions from Costco, but I was still spending a few hundred bucks every year to keep myself in top visionary form. After much deliberation and research–related to both costs and health risks–I made the decision that LASIK was for me.
I’ll be honest with you, I never actually calculated the break-even point for the cost of my surgery because I do not care. The quality of life benefit is so significant that I would’ve paid double, triple, probably even quadruple. It’s honestly that incredible. My friend wasn’t overstating it by using the word “transformative”–if anything, she undersold it. The ability to see, without any impediment, is miraculous for someone who was heretofore reliant upon artificial sight mechanisms.
Despite my now flippant attitude towards the cost, we did of course do everything we could to save money on the entire operation. Everything, that is, except select a subpar doctor. I actually chose the most expensive physician of all the options I had. These are my eyes we’re talking about and I had no interest in cheaping out on the procedure. I wanted a doctor who performs thousands of successful surgeries each year, uses the latest technology, and has a stellar reputation. There are areas in life to frugalize and there are areas to spend on. Eyesight falls firmly into the latter.
Here’s what we did to reduce the cost of surgery:
- My health insurance offered a discount coupon for a small percentage off LASIK surgery. I made sure to select a practitioner who honored this discount.
- I found a doctor who offered a free LASIK consultation and testing to determine if I was a candidate for the surgery (not all eyes are).
- We inquired if there was a discount for paying in full on the day of the surgery. Turns out, there was. Apparently most people put their LASIK on a high interest payment plan (which, by the way, I do not recommend) and the practice was delighted that we’d pay in full upfront. So delighted that they knocked $300 off the price for us! I’ll note that this was not an advertised discount–in fact, they never even mentioned the possibility of paying in full. It never hurts to ask if there’s a frugal weirdo advantage to be had.
- I later referred friends to this doctor, which nets me $100 per referral. Since it’s a service I’m beyond thrilled about, I’m happy to refer people and delighted to earn $100 per set of eyes. By the way, if you live in the Boston area and would like me to refer you, shoot me an email.
- The total cost for my surgery came to $4,225 (for both eyes).
The Surgery Itself
Many a person has quizzed me on the supposed horrors of LASIK but, to be honest, it’s really not that bad. The procedure itself takes only 15 minutes and your eyes are entirely numb. You can’t feel a thing. Yes, you are awake and conscious of the goings-on, but you can’t blink or move your eyes at all–they are immobilized and you are prone on a pleasant operating chair.
Plus, they gave me a valium before the procedure and, thanks to my ridiculously low tolerance, I felt drunk as a skunk. I think the valium was merely intended to take the edge off, but I was into the territory of stumbling around. Point is, the surgery itself is a pretty minor occurrence in the grand scheme of life. What’s 15 minutes of odd sensations and lasers as compared with a lifetime of perfect vision? I’ll tell you: it’s nothing.
Another glorious aspect of LASIK? The recovery time is absurdly fast. Immediately post-op, I was placed in a recovery room where I simply had to lie down with my eyes closed for about 30 minutes. Then, the doctor taped plastic shields over my eyes (to prevent anything from touching or bumping them), gave me dark glasses to wear, and sent me on my way. Mr. FW drove me home where I promptly slept for the requisite four hours (it’s important to give the ol’ eyes a rest following the procedure).
I woke up in time for dinner, ate heartily, and went back to bed. The next morning, I opened my eyes and shook Mr. FW awake to exclaim that I COULD SEE! He informed me that was the idea (touché), but you have to understand how revelatory this was for me. I had a follow-up appointment that afternoon where they checked my vision and made sure everything was in proper working order.
I then went about the rest of my life with perfect vision. There’s no pain associated with any stage of the process, merely a sensation of pressure around the eyes directly post-op. Although my vision was corrected immediately following surgery, everything was a bit hazy until the morning after. I had to wear the plastic shields over my eyes at night for several weeks and use prescription eye drops regularly for about a month, but after that, my only required eye maintenance is an annual eye exam. I never have eye pain, soreness, or blurred vision. The only difference I notice is a bit of star-bursting with lights a night (this is where streetlights and headlights appear more like star-bursts than beams of light), but I’m still able to drive at night and it’s not a hindrance, merely a noted difference.
Sidenote: Don’t throw stuff away–someone else can always use it! After my surgery, I gave my contact lens solution to a friend and donated my glasses through the Buy Nothing Project to someone with the same prescription.
Spend On Stuff That Matters
My LASIK is a prime example of the options and freedom that frugality grants. Since we don’t spend frivolously, we were able to easily pay in full for my surgery with nary a dent to our budget. It’s no accident that we were in this position–we put ourselves there by consistently spending below our means and saving huge percentages of our income.
The ability to spend on stuff that yields longterm value and increased quality of life is why we feel that we live a luxuriously frugal life. LASIK is absolutely a luxury and I feel incredibly fortunate we were able to afford it. Strategic allocation of our resources–with an optimization for lasting happiness–is where it’s at for these frugal weirdos.
It’s rare that I tell people to go out and spend dough, but, if you’re considering LASIK and have the ability to pay for it without incurring debt, then I enthusiastically endorse that you do so. Every single day of my life is easier, more comfortable, and honestly happier now that I’m not wrestling with painful contact lenses or bothersome glasses. I’m a person who craves simplicity and ease, so LASIK is nothing short of a dream come true for me. Sound a bit hyperbolic? I know, I know, but it’s the honest truth!