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.

My collection of cheap eyeglasses

My collection of eyeglasses, which I gave away through the Buy Nothing Project

Mine Eyes

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.

My upgraded black framed glasses

My upgraded black framed glasses

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.

The Cost

My lovely eyeglass model

My lovely eyeglass model

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.

Frugal Hound was super excited to show off my glasses

Frugal Hound was super excited to show off my glasses

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

Frugal Hound still needs her glasses for reading

Frugal Hound still needs her glasses for reading

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!

Have you ever had, or considered getting, LASIK? Do you have perfect vision and think I’m now a crazed LASIK evangelist (you’re probably right… )?

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92 Responses

  1. I’m so jealous!! Having worn glasses since the early 80’s (yeek!), I have no idea what it’s like to open my eyes in the morning and actually SEE! I have horrendous astigmatism, so I’ve been told by several doctors that I’m not a candidate for LASIK. However, there’s apparently a new procedure for which I may be a candidate. I’m going to wait a few years until it’s become more routine, before pursuing it, though. Enjoy your vision!!

    • Kaytee says:

      Same here! I looked into it a few years ago and my eyes are too bad for LASIK. The local place here will only do people for whom they can get 20/20 vision.

    • Katie says:

      Have you considered PRK? It is a similar procedure to LASIK but it works for people with bad astigmatism. I got glasses at age 2 and by the time I was 25 I had bad astigmatism and a -10 Rx. I got PRK at age 25 (I’m 29 now). My vision is not perfect, but it never was with glasses or contacts either, and I sit at a computer 40-60 hours per week. I agree that it was beyond worth the money and hassle!

    • Joe says:

      I have bad astigmatism too. 🙁 I would give LASIK more consideration if it wasn’t for that. I have never heard of PRK. I’ll check it out.
      I so used to my glasses, though. I don’t know if I could really give them up. They are like a security blanket for my face…

  2. RMF325 says:

    My parents gave me the great gift of LASIK several years ago; I agree, it is spectacular! I had been wearing glasses since the age of 7, and had a miserable time with contacts. My visual problem required a hard lens, and I was never able to wear them without tears streaming down my face all day. I’m very athletic, and both glasses and contacts were very difficult for skiing/horseback riding/tennis. My post-LASIK eyesight is 20/25 in both eyes (even with two LASIK procedures, that was the best we could do. My surgeon thinks I’ve likely never had 20/20 eyesight at any time in my life), and it is beyond wonderful. Not an exaggeration to say LASIK is life changing. Absolutely fantastic!

  3. Trista says:

    I’ve never seriously considered LASIK but since I joined the gym wearing glasses is significantly more annoying. They often fog up and I find myself having to remove them and lay them on the floor if I’m doing something on a mat… which means someone could easily step on them, even myself. Also with the increased sweating I’ve noticed my nose isn’t liking my glasses much either. It all red and irritated all the time. I’ve considered going back to contacts. I had stopped wearing them when I worked part time in retail because the air was so dry I felt like clawing my eyes out all the time. Maybe I should book a consultation. 🙂

  4. Mrs. F –

    I’ve had the surgery as well and agree, it was a great investment.

    Just so you know, it slips after about 10 years. You’ll need to get it retouched or get glasses. The re-touching isn’t cheap so you may want to budget for that. Especially since you’re so young. You may need a re-touch more than once.

    Best ~ Diane

    • Maisy says:

      Diane, I was just wondering about this. Do you have an estimate of how much it will cost to re-touch? I haven’t done extensive research but would like to know if Lasik is really a reliable and cost-effective long-term solution for those of us with terrible vision. I guess I don’t have TOO many issues with contacts, but I have often dreamed about being able to swim with my eyes open and see underwater, and watch movies late at night without cumbersome glasses in bed and/or contacts to take out, etc…

      • Talk to the doctor. They told me contacts wouldn’t work to fix it. Not sure if that’s a typical post-surgery issue. So I’m back to glasses! I can certainly see better without glasses than I did pre-surgery, but a bummer.

    • Chris says:

      Is the reason for this, because everyone’s vision changes in their 40’s? I am interested in this. I have glasses and my vision has changed a lot in the last year (I’m 47).

    • Kate says:

      I’ve had the procedure done 14 years ago and I’m still going strong! What I was told was I’d be fine until my eyes age and I get near sighted. But that’s a normal thing anyway.

  5. Ali says:

    Ah, I wish I could get LASIK! Unfortunately, I am one if those who is not a candidate (“not enough cornea” and detached retinas). I can’t say this enough–PLEASE get regular eye exams and choose the best doctor you can afford. If I hadn’t, I could have lost my vision at 29. Your eyes are so important. Take care of them!

  6. Aurelia says:

    I feel the same about my Invisalign treatment, my braces cost $5600 (cash in full pay discount -$300) but now after almost 19 months, I can smile without anyone glancing at my extra tooth. It’s amazing how my self esteem improved just a couple months into the treatment. Best investment in myself that I could have ever made!!!

    • Karen says:

      I’m with you! My frugaling allowed me to pay upfront to a highly recommended orthodontist for my daughter. Her smile and confidence are priceless. Frugaling really does give freedom to do what matters. Good on you Aurelia, great post Frugalwoods!

  7. Amanda says:

    I’ve had glasses since the second grade and contacts since junior high. I’m 40 now, and I’ve thought about LASIK off and on through the years. I get nervous, though, because I think, “It’s my EYES.” Yet, after reading your post, it seems that “It’s my EYES” is A REASON to look into it.

  8. Rena says:

    I also had my eyes lasered a few years ago after many many years if glasses and contacts. It was the year before my first child was born, I was white water rafting in Turkey with my prescription sunglasses strapped to my head when I thought / yikes, laser surgery in controlled conditions seems much more sensible….. I was so glad I finally took the plunge, especially when my girls were small – being able to jump out of bed and head straight to their room without looking for glasses made it all worthwhile ( oh, and not bumping into people in the pool!).

  9. I’ve never had LASIK and don’t wear glasses (::knocks on wood::). However, I couldn’t agree more to spend on what matters to you. I had a retainer made to try to push a tooth forward before my wedding. It was cheaper than having braces (again), but it was still pricey. I think it could be argued that this was pretty vain of me, but my dentist suggested a veneer and my ortho suggested braces, so I thought this was a pretty solid compromise. I felt so confident, though, and I still wear it at night. Not making that mistake again!

  10. My husband is very interested in LASIK so I appreciate this post a lot! I think I’ll be a candidate as my eyes deteriorate. For now I can get away without wearing my glasses if I don’t want to (except night driving). Anyway, super helpful information.

  11. I was just having the conversation with my co-workers yesterday! And they paid way more (close to $7,000!) And they mentioned taking a loan out for the procedure. From what you’ve described, it sounds like the surgery was well worth the expense. I’m near sighted, but don’t wear glasses during the day or at my computer. Mostly just at night, at an evening event, or while driving. I’ve definitely struggled from the back of yoga classes or during jogs, though!

  12. Justin says:

    Oh yes, do I ever love LASIK!!

    I had mine own eyes tuned up (with a laser beam!!!) ten years ago. Still going strong although my sight has deteriorated slightly since then (bad eyes suck). I think I paid around $3300 here in Raleigh. I funneled the entire cost through my Flexible Spending Account (in my pre-HSA days) so I actually paid closer to $2000 after tax.

    Some of the best money I’ve ever spent to improve my quality of life.

    I was functionally blind without glasses, not able to see clearly more than 16″ from my face. This meant glasses were a requirement for most tasks. Going to the beach was a pain, getting sweaty meant the glasses slid down my nose. Rain or humidity meant obscured glasses lens. Just a pain overall. I tried contacts and it was okay but still a pain and never that comfortable.

    It’s funny – I haven’t given the Lasik much thought because you just accept it as a given that your eyes work as they should.

    • Maisy says:

      Justin- I am in the Triangle and was wondering where you found Lasik so cheap, and what your experience was! I AM functionally blind without contacts/glasses. In fact, my biggest realistic fear in life is that I will lose access to the things that provide me with working vision. Heck, the zombie apocalypse could hit, and I could be the most prepared person in the world- but if I didn’t have constant access to glasses or contacts, I would be zombie brunch.

      • Justin says:

        I think I was 20/400 or worse pre-Lasik and ended up 20/20 or 20/15 after. 10 years on, It’s not quite as crisp as 20/20 (haven’t had it checked in a while though). Zero problems driving, shopping, walking, reading signs, etc. I might need a very light prescription eventually, but I should be just fine without glasses if it doesn’t deteriorate any more.

        The biggest advantage is I can wear regular sunglasses and safety glasses when doing outside activities or work that requires safety glasses. One time I lost my eyeglasses in the ocean and my wife had to almost literally lead me by the hand because it was hard to get around the house. She had to drive home too. I’d be a goner in the zombie apocalypse without this lasik. 😉

        The place I went was Lowry Ophthalmology in Raleigh. I googled and it’s now Lowry Porter Ophthalmology since Dr. Lowry retired. No clue if the new guy, Porter is great or not, so do your due diligence. You can call a few different places and get a price quote and then research quality and make a choice. I opted for the more expensive custom-something or other that basically customized the laser burn to my exact eye topography instead of a routine spherical burn pattern or whatever (to fix my astigmatism). That more expensive custom treatment might be standard now with advances in technology.

  13. Kristen says:

    I have been wearing glasses since I was 5 (so 35 years now). A few years ago I tried contacts, but the chemicals in them actually damaged my eyes, so I went back to glasses. I have had a number of friends have lasik, but I don’t foresee me every getting lasik. The reason? terrified of the actual surgery. I can’t even read about the procedure. I had a friend tell me about his and I pretty much threw up on the table. I can’t stomach it. For the time being, I don’t see it as an option for me. I have perfect vision with my glasses. My eyes if anything keep getting a bit better. I have a kick ass pair of sunglasses (I did buy prescription ones – Oakleys – have had the frames for 15 years, have had to change the lenses once. Totally worth the money!) I salute people brave enough to do the procedure!

  14. I’ve considered LASIK, but unfortunately my issue is not correctable with surgery, so I’ll have to stick with contact lenses. I’ll have to check out the Buy Nothing Project I been looking for a place to donate some old glasses.

    • MEL810 says:

      Most libraries and many optometrists have a box where you can deposit old glasses to give to charity. The Lions Club “New Eyes for the Needy” is one option. Once when I was unemployed I got a free vision test and glasses from Vision America.
      Some of the used glasses go to Americans and some go overseas. Please don’t just give out used glasses to someone from Buy Nothing. The wrong rx can hurt and won’t help a person’s vision. The charity programs will professionally retool the glasses so they are actually usable by individuals.

      Here’s some info about various programs:

      Free Eye Exams for Adults

      VISION USA, coordinated by the Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation, provides free eye exams to uninsured, low-income workers and their families. For more information about VISION USA, call 1-800-766-4466.

      EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, provides free eye exams for qualifying seniors. Eligible individuals receive a comprehensive medical eye exam and up to one year of care for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam at no out-of-pocket cost.

      The program facilitates eye care for U.S. citizens and legal residents who are without an ophthalmologist and who do not belong to an HMO or have eye care coverage through the Veterans Administration.

      Volunteer ophthalmologists accept Medicare and/or other vision insurance reimbursement as payment in full. Patients without insurance receive care at no charge. To determine if you or a senior family member or friend qualifies for free eye exams and other services provided by this program, visit the EyeCare America website.

      Lions Clubs International provides financial assistance to individuals for eye care through its local clubs. You can find a local Lions Club by using the “club locator” feature on the organization’s website.

  15. Mrs SSC says:

    Totally agree with you. Mr SSC got it 3 years ago, and I got in 2 months ago. I love it. Best money I’ve spent!!!! 30 years in glasses – but I still wake up every morning reaching for my glasses to put on 🙂

  16. Raina says:

    Hands down, best fugal hound pics ever.

  17. Hannah says:

    My dad is equally hyperbolic and often says he would spend $100K for the results. I’ve encouraged my husband to look into it, but he seems to like his high end glasses.

  18. Julia says:

    Funny, I was just thinking about doing some research on LASIK last night. I’ve had glasses since second grade, am turning 40 this month, and imagine I’ve already spent thousands on glasses, contacts & solutions. Thanks for writing about your experience! I’m interested to hear from others in the comments.

    Also I agree it’s great how frugal living allows paying in full for things like this. I recently found out I’m going to need a costly dental procedure soon, but we’ve got the money, and that saves considerable stress.

  19. I just made my appointment for the surgery! I already had the checkups and now I’m ready to take the plunge.

  20. The quality of life improvements with lasik really are tremendous. I’ve had the same surgery done on both of my eyes for nearly the same cost, and what you get back through quality of life far exceeds the cost in my humble opinion. By far.

    Best $4k I’ve ever spent.

  21. Maisy says:

    Hi there- quick question. I’ve thought about getting Lasik for the same reasons as you (I am legally blind without contacts/glasses, and I hate not being able to see!), but I have heard that a lot of people either have to go back years later to get it touched up or wear glasses of a lower prescription later on. Did you read about this? I haven’t done extensive research but would like to know if Lasik is really a reliable long-term solution for those of us with terrible vision.

  22. Cindi M says:

    My husband and I both has Lasik ten years ago. I had worn coke-bottle glasses or hard/uncomfortable contact lenses since fourth grade. Lasik was a miracle!
    Do note that as you get older, even with Lasik, you will need reading glasses. I was able to put off the inevitable until I turned 50, while my husband had to start using readers at age 45. But at least I can ski, hike, drive, etc without the hassle of glasses. And drugstore readers work just fine.
    So yeah — definitely worth the cost.

  23. Tarynkay says:

    My dad got LASIK. He was legally blind his whole life before he got it. He had gone on a trip and lost his glasses and had to spend over a week stumbling around unable to see. As soon as he got back, he found a LASIK doctor. He has also been delighted with the results. However, he now has to wear glasses again. He is 65, though. I guess the deal is that your eyes will continue to age, so some people may wind up needing glasses again for age related reasons. But he is not anywhere close to back to legal blindness, so he is fine with needing them for driving and reading.

    My astigmatism is getting worse over time (though thankfully very gradually) and the eye doctor has told me that I can’t get LASIK until they stop changing. Or rather I could, but then I would just need glasses again pretty quickly, so what’s the point? I really don’t mind wearing glasses, though. I can’t wear contacts- something to do with the shape of my eyeballs, which is just all wrong? I bought my current pair online through Warby Parker, far less expensive than through an optometrist. This is not as cheap as Zenni Optical, but since I wear them every day, I want to love them. And I do- the fit is perfect and the prescription is also perfect.

  24. Leigh says:

    I had laser eye surgery in my early twenties and then last fall, it turned out that I need reading glasses! Since I spend most of my day on a computer, this drives me bonkers! Also, I’m still in my twenties. Apparently this is reasonably common now for women in their twenties who have computer jobs to need reading glasses.

  25. AmyGW says:

    Agreed whole-heartedly. Like RMF325 I started wearing glasses at 7 and then hard lenses for about 25 years. I was so relieved to find that I (barely) qualified for the surgery. I used a pre-tax health care account to pay for the bulk of it and had it done about 15 years ago. I still can’t believe I was so lucky – truly, transformation is the only word that describes it.

    In your 40s or 50s your focusing muscles start to weaken so you may need reading glasses. As I understand it, this is not correctible by surgery. At age 48, I’ve been using reading glasses for about a year. A small sacrifice for the years of freedom I’ve enjoyed.

  26. Well, lucky you! I am too shortsighted to have laser eye surgery. And growing old (50++), I have trouble wearing contact lenses. So back to glasses…
    But you’re right, I wouldn’t mind the cost.
    Colette from Paris (France)

  27. Jim says:

    I got LASIK twelve years ago because I hated glasses and contacts. I tell everyone that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done (besides getting married and having a daughter). I’m a pretty frugal guy, but the cost to me was a bargain for being able to see the time on the alarm clock in the middle of the night. I pushed my wife to do the same about five years ago and she’s been happy as well.

  28. MEL810 says:

    Unfortunately, I am very far-sighted and astigmatic, so LASIK surgery wouldn’t do boo for me. I’d still have to wear glasses. I’d even have to wear glasses if I got contacts! I’ve had severe conjunctivitis in the past, so contacts are taboo, anyway.
    But great score on the deal and I am glad someone can see better. Perhaps Frugal Hound can score some ‘cat’s eye’ glasses? That would be a hoot and she would be oh so glam.

  29. Jenessa says:

    My fiance got LASIK almost two years ago. He mostly loves it, but he still has problems with dry eyes and has to use drops a lot. Fortunately we can buy them at Costco. I apparently need to get PRK surgery instead of LASIK since my corneas are too thin. I think I am going to do it next year, but I have been a little hesitant since the recovery is supposed to be much longer and more painful.

    • Katie says:

      I had PRK surgery about 4 years ago… Yes, the recovery sucked, but it was totally worth it! I basically had to sit in a dark room and listen to movies for 2-3 days, and after that I was pretty sensitive to light for about a week.

      • I too had PRK. This was my experience. Eye surgery is great and PRK is a fine way to accomplish the procedure. You’ll have a really bad weekend and lingering light sensitivity for a week or two. I listened to my favorite movies in a time before podcasts.
        If you want the surgery and are okay with the risks, I wouldn’t let PRK hold you back. It’s kind of like childbirth. It’s very painful at the time, but waking up each morning being able to see is worth it. You may even forget how painful it was!

        You may also not have much pain. My pain was awful.

      • I also had PRK with my two eyes done separately, a couple weeks apart. With the first one I had to spend about 36 hours in the dark, listening to TV, I was so light sensitive. With the second eye, I just put on the ugly wrap-around dark glasses and was good to go the day after the surgery. So the reaction is not necessarily even consistent eye to eye. That was 17 years ago by the way (before LASIK was a common procedure) and I’ve only in the last couple years once I turned 50 needed very low prescription reading glasses. Otherwise, I’ve had consistent 20/20 vision ever since. It is a transformative thing!

  30. Marcia says:

    About 10 years ago, my eye doc suggested it. I’ve worn glasses since age 9 (4th grade). At that point I was 34 or 35, so why bother? Especially since I had to wear safety glasses at work anyway.

    Fast forward 10 years later. I’ve got two kids, and I’m spending many weekends and vacations at the beach and at the water park. I’ve taken up swimming. Now, I bought a pair of $35 prescription goggles 5 years ago, but you look like a dork in a water park wearing your goggles everywhere. So I asked my eye doc about it. She said “well, I would have suggested it 10 years ago, but at your age now…since you aren’t going to get away from glasses completely (reading glasses)”. I said “you did suggest it”.

    Anyway, took her referral to the surgeon, was told my corneas are too thin. I could do PRK, but that’s more painful and a much longer recovery. No driving or working for about 10 days, and I don’t have that much vacation. Plus, a 3 year old (well he was 2 when I went in for the consult).

    So, I guess probably no eye surgery for me now. So sad. Bring on the dorky goggles. On the other hand, I finally sucked it up and bought $35 prescription sunglasses!

  31. Mr. 1500 says:

    I have never had to wear glasses, but recently my eyes have started to go downhill. Arrrgh! I can never find my wallet or keys, so no way I’m getting glasses which I will just lose. I hope when the time comes that I’m eligible for the lasers.

    I’m afraid to ask this, but will anyway: how do they numb you eyeballs? Please don’t tell me they stick needles in your eyes. Oh, I’m so creeped out right now.

    I realize that I could just google this, but can’t bring myself to do it. I fear your reply.

  32. I’m sooooo short sighted! I’ve often thought about laser surgery, being able to wake up and see would be amazing but From 18 until 29 I had to buy new glasses every year as my eyesight kept deteriorating. Its on.y the past few years that they have evened out. I dread to think how much I have spent on contact lenses and glasses, long term surgery would be more cost effective for me.

  33. Laura says:

    I saved all through grad school to pay the $2600 it cost to do PRK surgery (similar to LASIK) so that I would no longer have to wear contacts or glasses. Much like Mrs. FW, I had terrible eyesight since puberty. I was active, too. I was a runner, lived in a place where my contacts dried out all the time, and I constantly worried about going out for a long run and losing a contact and not being able to see to get back home! I did the research on the best procedure, best doctor, and cost effectiveness of the surgery. First, PRK is deemed to be a better procedure than LASIK by many opthalmologists/optometrists because once your eyes heal, there is little to no chance of vision damage from sports. With LASIK, your eyes are always susceptible to permanent damage if, for example, you go water skiing and get a lot of water splashed in your face, or if you play ball sports and a basketball/soccer ball hits you in the face. I opted for the safest approach long term. Second, I chose the best doctor I could find in my region. My insurance covered none of the cost, but like Mrs. FW, I negotiated a reduced fee by paying in full on the day of the surgery. Apparently doctors like that sort of thing. Finally, I calculated the cost benefit analysis. I was paying a whopping $700 a year for visiting the eye doctor (no insurance), getting new lenses for my glasses, and buying a year supply of contacts. It didn’t take long to figure out that within less than 4 years, the cost of the surgery would be compensated in savings from not having to pay for glasses or contacts. What I will say about my eye expenses since the surgery (I had it 6 years ago), is that I have had fairly dry eyes since them and I have to use Systane eye drops once a day. The bottle is about $17 and lasts about 2 months. I also go to the optometrist once a year. It’s a $20 copay. So, I now spend about $225/year on eyecare, which is so worth it. I love not having to put my glasses on to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and nothing beats the fact that I can now see without needing a tool to help me do it. Great post, Mrs. FW.

  34. Alisa says:

    Yup, yup. I did the surgery in 2011. I never had contacts, after one failed try at the optometrist. With hiking and hashing, I experienced the same fogging on my glasses in high humidity. Playing beach volleyball in the rain and having to stop because I could not see was another memorable experience that leaned me towards the surgery. I did my surgery at a comparable cost here, in Trinidad, and I agree that it’s absolutely worth it though my insurance would not cover a cent. I still sometimes find myself pushing phantom glasses up my nose bridge!

  35. SSS says:

    I wanted to restate the benefit Justin pointed about about using an FSA (flexible spending account) to pay for LASIK. This lets you use pre-tax dollars for the procedure, which winds up being a 20 to 35+ percentage discount. An FSA is a “use or lose” pot of money for medical expenses that must be utilized in a particular calendar year. Most employers offer you the chance in the fall to set a contribution amount to an FSA for the next year, and then that amount is rateably taken out of your paychecks in the applicable year. A few pointers from using an FSA to pay for both mine & my husband’s LASIK —

    – In the fall/early winter, get a consult to determine if you are a good candidate for LASIK
    -Set-up the procedure for Jan or Feb and get a firm quote on cost
    -Set your FSA contribution for you and/or spouse for the following year to include the cost of the procedure. When we had it done, the FSA limit was high enough that only one of us need to contribute to the FSA. However, the current IRS limit is $2,500 (I think), but each of spouse can contribute this amount & all the money can be used on one of the two of you (or a dependent).
    – You can have the procedure early in the year, but pay for it (our of your salary) throughout the full year. This is basically an interest-free loan, on top of the tax savings.
    – Depending on your employer, they’d either load the full FSA amount on to a debit card & you can just use the debt card at LASIK center – or you pay in full (& get CC miles), submit the receipt to HR/whoever & then get reimbursed.

    If you are considering this option, it makes sense to really read your employers’ rules for FSA & talk to the doctor about using an FSA to pay for it, as it might be a way to save a lot of money on the procedure. I think we might have even gotten the “pay in full” discount.

  36. Fiby says:

    I definitely want LASIK at some point. I’ll probably hold off until I graduate with my PhD and get a job with “real” health insurance. Student health insurance doesn’t cover LASIK.
    My vision is ridiculously bad. My glasses prescription is -8 and -7.75 (right and left eyes). Or on the 20/20 scale, I don’t have the exact number but it’s on the order of 20/1000. So yea…I’m basically blind without my glasses. On the upside, it’s not possible for me to lose my glasses since I only take them off to sleep….

    I too wouldn’t really care much about the cost (I mean, so long as health insurance covers it…I’d hate to see the bill without insurance).

    Funny anecdote I saw on MMM forums about being frugal and LASIK:
    So some guy said his company put $2000 into his medical FSA every year, in October. (If you’re not familiar with FSAs, they’re pre income and FICA tax savings accounts for specific purposes, this one being for medical expenses). Since the FSA is use it or lose it (though nowadays you may be allowed to rollover $500 into the next year), this guy normally just bought a bunch of OTC meds in September.
    This year though, he wanted LASIK. And the cost was about $2000 per eye. So he got LASIK for one eye in September, and then for the other eye in October! Made good use of that $2000/yr in his FSA!

    • Bonnie says:

      Beware of the OTC purchases to use up your FSA balance. It’s what I used to do, too, until under President Obama OTC drugs were no eligible. That’s when we quit funding ours; it became very difficult to ensure using up the money, and there was no way I was contributing back to the government. Rules may have changed back (I hope they have), but make sure before assuming that is can option.

    • Jenessa says:

      LASIK is considered voluntary surgery and I have never heard of any health insurance covering any part of it. Some doctors, such as Mrs. FW’s, may give you a discounted rate if they regularly work with your insurance provider.

  37. Lisa says:

    I got mine done a year ago. In case you’re curious, I calculated my break-even point to be 18 years, but that’s for glasses with the occasional box of disposable contacts for swimming. If I regularly wore contacts, the break even point would be much sooner!

    Best decision (both financial and lifestyle) I’ve ever made!

  38. Pat Pickett says:

    I’m curious why you had to pay at all? I had surgery on both eyes and my insurance covered everything. I didn’t pay a dime. It’s hard to believe I’d have better benefits than your job offers!

  39. Tawcan says:

    Very cool post. I’ve wore glasses for over 20 years now and wore contacts for the last 15 or so. Unlike you, I had no problem with contacts. I’ve thought about laser eye surgery but never went for a consultation. A few of my co-workers had it done and one of them now needs glasses 4 years after the surgery. If you consider how much glasses and contacts are, the surgery cost isn’t that significant IMO.

  40. I also got lasik and also felt like it was life changing! I wore glasses since the 1st grade so waking up and seeing every day is truly remarkable!

  41. Interesting! Both Kyle and I wear glasses (I pop in contacts occasionally) but we don’t mind it. I think we both prefer how we look with glasses on than off – or maybe we’re just accustomed to it. Also, neither of us has terrible vision. I used to have a pair of (dark-framed) glasses with plastic, slick nosepieces that slid whenever I sweated, and that’s when I started wearing contacts regularly (I was a rower and couldn’t exactly remove my hand from my oar to push my glasses up!). But now that I have glasses with normal nosepieces again that isn’t an issue. All that to say, we’ve never considered LASIK. I don’t think we would have the transformative experience you did. That’s not to say it’s out of the question for the future, though!

  42. One Broke B says:

    I am pretty sure I had those same gold glasses at age 13! I want to have LASIK, but right now it’s not in the budget. My insurance would pay 15% I think, but that doesn’t help if I have to finance the rest! I’m also interested to hear more about what happens to people with LASIK as they age.

  43. Patrick says:

    My wife had PRK in early 2014 and loves it! We also found a frugal hack, if you are planning to switch jobs (or retire) and your old one offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for healthcare. Those are the ones with the 3000 annual limit that you have to re-up for each year. Basically, they take a fixed amount out of each paycheck to fund the amount, so if you get paid bi-weekly, they’d take 1/26 of 3000 out of each paycheck to pay for the benefit. You can spend the entire amount on 1/1 of the year, and if you leave the company before the end of the year, you only pay back the amount that is automatically taken out.

    I knew I was switching jobs near the end of the year, so I planned to move after 1/7 when she had the surgery. I paid 1 paycheck worth of FSA withdrawals, or about $115, and she got $3,000 off the price of the procedure. Since this is elective, it might make sense to do this sort of planning.

  44. holten says:

    I got LASIK done about 8 years ago & have been THRILLED. I tell anyone & everyone to get it done. It was life changing and I agree with your whole post, the procedure was really quick, the recovery was minimal, but the impact to my life was immense. I never wore my glasses, I hated everything about them. I wore contacts all the time and the worst part (for me) as an avid skier, I would have to stop constantly as my contact-wearing eyes would dry out! Really annoying…..

  45. Chrissy says:

    Awesome post! I have really bad eyesight since I was a kid, and I’ve considered LASIK. My contacts are a -6 and -7, so I’m pretty much blind without them.

    Thanks for the list of things above. I didn’t realize that one would have to be a good candidate for it at all. Looked it up and I can’t do it. I have an autoimmune disease so I’m pretty much disqualified from getting it. Nooooooooo! >.<

    Oh wells, at least now I know! Also, I love Zenni Optical. I converted my entire family over to them. <3

  46. Liz says:

    Good for you! I consider my HSA to be my savings account for LASIK and it’s looking like I’ll have saved enough to get it done early next year. I’m so excited! I started wearing glasses in the third grade, I cannot even imagine waking up and just being able to see. Since that money is for health expenses anyway I couldn’t use it towards my debt so I don’t feel guilty for using the money for LASIK.

  47. I wear glasses but don’t think LASIK is in the cards for me. My vision is not very bad (in Georgia, where we used to live, I qualified for an unrestricted driver’s license, but other states have higher standards). Also, I have congenital toxoplasmosis, which can reactivate after LASIK and might make me a bad candidate anyway.

    Mr. FP, on the other hand, has been tempted. His vision is much worse than mine. But he’s afraid he would be unhappy with the results. This is not unlikely, as he is super, super picky. He has already rejected contacts on two separate occasions because he didn’t like the vision. Whenever he gets glasses, he inevitably spends a week talking obsessively about how they are not right, then returns them for a refund, and repeats this process with the new pair.

    Obviously, this makes him an undesirable optometry patient. But this year, he thought of a way to make himself a WORSE patient. When selecting glasses, he brought along our two tots, ages three and four. That would be bad enough.

    One of them vomited on the show room floor.

  48. BeSmartRich says:

    I totally agree with you although I have very good eyesight. I used to have crooked teeth and 2 years of wearing braces which also costed me 5K was the one of best investments I have ever made in my life. I am more confident than ever when smiling and that confidence has provided better opportunities throughout my career.

  49. Alex says:

    I had LASIK last winter for $3400 at one of the top providers near Seattle, there was a pretty significant discount for payment in full. Soooo worth it after 15 years in glasses. I’m very active and extra sweaty so glasses wouldn’t stay on, making contacts a necessity, and they were such a pain. I couldn’t wear them all day so I had to keep them around. Procedure was so fast and easy, just a couple drops of high strength numbing solution and 5 minutes in the chair, then used lots of day and night lubricants for about 2 months afterwards and now my eyes feel perfect. Couldn’t be happier.

  50. I’m SO happy with my Lasik! My eyes weren’t terrible, but my vision didn’t go downhill until the end of high school. But that point in life I just could never get the hang of contacts. Glasses made my time in the Army a bit challenging. Lasik was totally worth it!

  51. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    LASIK is going to be my 50th birthday present to myself! I’ve had poor vision since 3rd grade and now bifocals have entered into the picture….
    Thanks for the reignite on if my LASIK excitement!

  52. Kim from+Philadelphia says:

    Typos- arrgh- sorry!

  53. What I wouldn’t give to be able to see properly without glasses or contacts. I can see next to nothing. My eyes are truly terrible. Lasik is something I would be willing to pay for if I had the money. It would definitely feel like a miracle to be able to see!

  54. Van says:

    I was not eligible for LASIK. Similar to @Laura, I had PRK. It was more expensive than LASIK, although I did receive discounts through my employer’s insurance and took advantage of FSA to pay for most of it in pre-tax dollars. The “payback period” was calculated at just under seven years. I went against doctor recommendations and had both eyes done at the same time. The recovery was longer than I anticipated (although exactly as long as the doctor’s had said) and I spent several days in a darkened room listening (and falling asleep) to audiobooks. I was extremely light sensitive inititally — But, oh, being able to see without glasses or contacts was glorious! About ten years later, my eyes started to change again — the perils of getting older and reaching 40. It isn’t significant enough to force me into glasses (yet), and my doctor said that once they stabilize I could consider another round of surgery. However, he also noted that my eyes are moving towards monovision — one eye sees close, the other far away — and apparently this is considered the best situation for people as they get older. I’m still fiesty enough to think that 20/20 vision is the best situation, but that fire is tempered a bit. Still considering my options, and I’m comfortable with where I am today. If I could go back to the first time — I would have done it again, but sooner. In a heartbeat. The investment felt large at the time, but well worth it. For those considering it, make sure you are selecting a good, competent doctor you can trust.

  55. JKL says:

    OK, I know this sounds weird to the hairless, but that’s just how I felt about laser hair removal. No more waxing and shaving, I can wear a bikini. Best money EVER spent.

  56. middle class says:

    I’m in my mid40s now so I wonder if I’m too old for Lasik. I would love to wake up and actually see! In my 30s I spent $$ for braces. That was worth every cent, too!

  57. Kate says:

    For any Americans who live within a reasonable drive of the US border, you should look into having laser eye surgery in Canada. The Canadian health care system is excellent, and the surgery runs about $2000 to $3000 cdn, which equals about $1500 to $2300 US (the Canadian dollar is really low right now compared to the US). You’d probably have to stay in a hotel overnight, but the savings could make it worthwhile. I had mine done in Vancouver (where I live), and I have been totally happy with the results.

  58. Kate (another one) says:

    My experience was very similar. I had glasses since 11, contacts since 16, got to a point where they were so uncomfortable I couldn’t wear contacts. I had LASIK in my late 20s and oh man, 14 years later, it’s still the best thing I’ve ever done.

    Addressing some questions above, my vision is still good and I haven’t had to retouch my eyes. Halo effect and dry eyes were somewhat noticeable at first (but not enough to affect quality of life) but eventually disappeared after a couple of years.

    Mostly I forget I’ve ever had bad eyes, my eyes with perfect sight feel so right and natural.

    To anyone who’s reading this and who’s thinking about it – JUST DO IT!

  59. Kathleen says:

    In 2002, I had Lasik surgery when I was a few months shy of my 42nd birthday. As you described, the surgery and recovery were a breeze. Fortunately, I have an amazing health plan with my company, which covered the entire cost. For three years, my vision was perfect. When I was about 45, I needed reading glasses. But the surgeon had warned me before I agreed to the procedure that due to my age, I would likely need reading glasses very soon. Still, I had three years with no glasses, so was very happy for that. I highly recommend Lasik.

  60. Heather says:

    Lucky to only need a slight script for driving at night. However, I couldn’t agree more on the importance of quality not just cost when it comes to anything dentist, doctor, optometry. I need blood work several times a year and it is worth the doctor’s lab vs the cheaper national lab. I always have horrible bruising afterwards and more discomfort during from the national lab. After several years of that, I have decided the extra cost is worth it. Same thing is true of seeing a endocrinologist for my diabetes. The better control the Dr helps me achieve is worth the extra copay.

  61. Shanna says:

    Something else for frugal weirdos to consider: medical tourism! I taught English abroad in Korea for a year, and their costs were much cheaper (and the doctors are amazing and much more experienced with the procedure than in the US). I got LASEK (like PRK, the healing time and discomfort is a little worse than LASIK, but may be better long term if you’re very active). I don’t remember the exact cost, but I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500-2000, both eyes and all followup included. My friend got LASIK in Florida around the same time, and it would have been cheaper for her to fly roundtrip to Korea and have surgery there…especially since they ended up screwing up hers so she has perpetual dry eyes but still needs corrective lenses.

  62. Kali says:

    Gonna have to shoot you an email about that — I’m blind as a bat without contacts or glasses and I’ve been thinking about LASIK for a looong time. Just been too freaked out by the procedure to pull the trigger yet! Thanks for sharing this post. I need to keep this on my radar 🙂

  63. Megan says:

    LASIK is the best thing that I have ever done for myself. Absolutely life changing. I told my husband that it is like I was living my life in standard definition and all of a sudden upgraded to the fanciest High Definition money could buy. I was terrified of having it done and nearly passed out from anxiety right before the procedure but TOTALLY WORTH IT.

  64. I couldn’t get lasik due to too much astigmatism in my left eye, but got a similar procedure called PRK instead. I agree, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being able to see the alarm clock in the morning was great, ditching contacts was even better. I had glasses since about second grade and switched to contacts in middle school, so it was a logn time coming.

    I got the procedure done about 8 years ago. It took less than 60 seconds per eye! Unlike lasik, the recovery time is a bit longer though. My eyes were very sensitive to light for a few days and ai had to use those protective shields at night for close to a week. I also had a battle with dry eyes for a few months, but it was still an incredible change to my quality of life.

    I do remember being jealous of the lasik folks the morning after my surgery when I was back in for a follow-up. They were all cheery and happy, while I was wearing sunglasses and trying to relax (with better than 20/20 vision in each eye though!).

    I ended up using our medical insurance to get a 15% discount then opened up a Care Credit credit card. The procedure went on at 0%. I then used an HSA to make monthly payments on it (so all pre-tax dollars). I think I paid it off in like 12 months jsut to get rid of it. I had to adjust my HSA ahead of time to make sure I put enough in there, but it all worked out. I think I paid around $3,600 (can’t really remember). Just like you the money was almost irrelevant. I would have paid $10,000 and been extremely happy!

  65. Amy says:

    Ever since I got transition lenses in my glasses I never even think about lasik. My eyes have always been sensitive to light and just keeping my same glasses on all the time and when I’m outside they turn into sunglasses for me and when I’m inside they turn into regular glasses for me is so wonderful. I would never be hiking up a mountain without sunglasses anyway. Maybe one day they’ll make a surgery so that you don’t need sunglasses – that I’d be up for.

    Anyway glad you love your new eyes so much, just wanted to share my different opinion.

  66. Vanessa says:

    For some background: I have $1000 every 2-years for vision care between two health insurance plans so I am lucky in that I don’t really have to budget, per se, for eye care…

    I always thought that I’d get lasik, I was 25 at the time and thought, “think of all the money I can save if I do it now!”, I can’t wait to wake up every day and just SEE, etc. etc. After doing some more research I’ve ask a few friends and they noticed that the surgery caused them to have dry eyes (requiring you to invest in eye drops which may cost up to $120 a year), poorer night vision through star bursts, and another friend explained that there are some new advancements in Phakic IOLs and it may involve less risks/complications since they aren’t altering your eye and can always take it out. With this in mind, I realized that maybe it wouldn’t be the best decision to improve my quality of life. At least, not right now. I’m definitely still following the IOLs research. If it sucks, I want to be able to go back to my normal way of life.

  67. Toria says:

    For those of you who want LASIK but aren’t eligible for medical reasons, you should look into (pardon the pun!) orthokeratological lenses. These are rigid lenses you wear only while you sleep and they use suction to mould the cornea into a better shape! When you take them out in the morning, you can see perfectly, unassisted, for about a day or so. I have them now and they are such an improvement on regular contacts. I can swim, do aerobics, go running, go to concerts and festivals, and do long-haul flights without having to deal with itchy, awful junk in my eyes.
    They create no permanent change to your eyeball and you can stop using them at any time. Worth checking out if you can’t do laser!

  68. Jane says:

    I’ll second the vote for Ortho-K lenses. I have been using mine for 6 years and truly could not be more pleased. I went this route instead of LASIK because I was uneasy about having eye surgery, and the cost was so much less for OrthoK….about 75 percent less than LASIK. The lenses, if properly handled, can be used indefinitely.

  69. Carrie says:

    I used to have astigmatism. I tried out contacts for the first time back in the days when contacts were firm glass. Two years later I did not need the ‘special’ contacts as the astigmatism was gone.

  70. Jeanne R Whitaker says:

    I couldn’t agree more!
    Thanks for the wonderful read, haha!
    I had LASIK done on myself a few years ago and it has done wonders for me! 🙂
    I used to wear contacts but then it started giving me various infections and what not!.
    A friend, wanting to put me out of misery, suggested that I go get LASIK, which to be honest I was hell bent against initially. On top of that, the amount of anti LASIK content that’s been spreading on the internet is pretty much enough to keep one away from the idea.
    For all the hate articles and widespread anti LASIK articles on the internet, there’s ones like this one and this, which to be honest started me off and a path towards exploring the possibility of LASIK. I even advised my elder brother to get the procedure done and after some initial refusal, he caved in and got it done. Now he thanks me on a daily basis every week and twice on a Sunday, haha 😉

    This is what we need on the internet, please keep more of such coming 😉

  71. Tiffany Alvis says:

    Glad to have come across this page 🙂
    I don’t know why so many people are afraid of LASIK nowadays. It’s not even such a complicated procedure. Almost everyone in my family got it done and we’re alright! I got my lasik eye surgery done here at Washington itself at Evergreen Eye Care. My friend had recommended them and it was totally affordable too. 🙂
    I believe that if people can find the right doctor who instills the right amount of confidence in them, they’d be able to get through LASIK as well, without any worries.
    I am just glad now that I don’t have to wear any more contact lenses or glasses, haha!

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