I’ve been wearing glasses since the first grade and when I made the switch to contacts in middle school my bills skyrocketed. Luckily, I had my mom there to pay for all my appointments and lenses so I never knew just how expensive everything was. Now that I’ve been on my own for a few years, things are really starting to add up. I have a contact lens prescription of -9.00 and -8.50 so everything costs more.
It takes a lot of money to keep me seeing clearly so I do everything I can to minimize my costs. One big thing that’s helped me is my HSA. All of my vision related services not covered by insurance(exam co-pay, contacts, solution) are paid for with money from my HSA. In 3+ years I’ve already spent $1,300 on HSA-reimbursable expenses. But, I’d rather not spend the money in my HSA if I don’t have to so here’s what I do to save even more.
My Eyeglasses are so NOT Trendy
Even though I wear contacts 90% of the time, I still get a pair of back up eyeglasses once every three years. I usually wear these around the house in the mornings or at night. I try not to wear them in public, because even with the thinnest lenses available on the planet, it still looks like I’m wearing coke bottle glasses.
My eyeglasses never end up costing too much since I get the standard lens and frame. I really don’t care about how I look or even how well I see since I primarily wear contacts during the day and glasses for very short periods at night. If you do have a lower prescription, you can save yourself a lot of money by going exclusively with glasses since they can last for years at a time. Alternatively, you can buy your own frames online and use your VSP allocation towards lenses in the store.
Yearly Contact Exam
My prescription seems to change every single time I go in to the optometrist, but this year was the first time it ever stayed the same. I hope this trend continues since it would allow me to get an exam once every two years and apply my full contact lens contribution towards lenses instead of my fitting co-pay. Here’s how my bill breaks down right now:
Comprehensive Exam Co-Pay: $10 (Usual Cost: $185)
Contact Lens Evaluation/Fitting Co-Pay: $60 (Usual Cost: $165)
Contribution toward your contact Lenses: $150
With my VSP Choice plan, in order to get fitted for contact lenses it costs me $70 out of pocket($60 + $10). That leaves me $150 to spend on contact lenses
but I found out that you can actually apply your fitting co-payment to that $150(but not the exam co-pay). Apparently, my VSP plan has changed from last year to this year. Last year, I was able to apply my $150 allotment to the contact lens fitting(because it wan’t a co-pay). Their normal contact lens fitting cost was $72 and they gave me a 15% discount off of that price. So I was able to apply part of my allotment to the exam price but this year my employer opted to make the lens fitting a co-pay instead of a discount.
This makes a big difference since most optometrists charge top dollar for contacts and that’s where they make their highest profit margin. If you’ve ever shopped around even a tiny bit, you know that you can get contacts online for nearly half the normal cost. My optometrist charges $56 a box(6 contacts x 2 weeks for one eye) for Acuvue Oasis with Astigmatism while LensDiscounters has them for just $27 a box! So here’s what I do:
I pay the $10 co-pay and then I use $60 of my contact lens contribution on the lens fitting. That leaves me $90 to spend on contacts so I buy two boxes at $56 each. As long as the cost of the contacts – $90 is less than the price I would pay with LensDiscounters($27) this makes sense for me to do. After everything is said and done, I end up spending $10 on co-pay and $22 on two boxes of contacts.
Since my lenses are only good for two weeks, two boxes will only last me about three months. I’ll end up buying 6 more boxes online at a total cost of $162. That brings my total yearly costs for contacts to just $194. If I use my HSA to pay for it, that money is tax free so I end up saving another 30-40% off of that.
Readers, does your optometrist sucker you into buying contact lenses from them or have you been shopping online for your lenses? I just checked my records with LensDiscounters and I bought my first pair of lenses from them in 2006, wow!
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My parents’ health plan paid for everything, which was pretty sweet. But then I got to this whole post-college thing and really had no idea how much things cost. I know that glasses and contacts were expensive. Since I wore contacts regularly, my parents never let me change the lenses in my frames unless the prescription changed a lot.
They gave me laser eye surgery as a college graduation present, which has been amazing! The funny thing is that despite my prescription changing a little bit every optometrist visit, the laser eye surgery consultant said that it hadn’t changed in 5 years. So I wonder if the optometrist got paid more money if my prescription changed every visit… I now only need to go see the optometrist every 5 years, just to check on the health of my eyes! I honestly have no idea what my vision benefits are, other than that I would have spent a lot of money out of pocket for glasses + contacts and nothing on a check-up.
Harry Campbell says
That’s very interesting and that actually makes a lot of sense. I’m kind of a conspiracy theorist(just read my last article) haha so it would make sense that optometrists change up your prescription a tiny bit every time just to keep you coming back.
At my work, we’re able to select health, vision and dental separately so if I didn’t need one of the three I could de-select it and save some money every paycheck. If something did come up, I could always pay for it with my HSA and it would probably cost the same amount.
Haha you’re totally a conspiracy theorist! My optometrist once LOWERED my prescription and I couldn’t see. That was pretty terrible.
I select health/dental separately and vision comes included with health somehow. I’m guessing it’s cheap for them to run since we get very little benefit from it, same with dental. 😉
Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says
Last year, I got Lasik, and it has really been a life changer. I know it’s worth it for the cost that contacts and glasses are over the years. Unfortunately I think your -9 & -8.5 might be outside of the scope for lasik since my -6.50 was pushing it. Still, it could be something to look into.
Harry Campbell says
Yea I actually went in for a LASIK consultation a few years ago when I found out you can pay for it with a HSA. I think they’d have to cut away too much so I can’t get it done. I haven’t given up hope though, I’m waiting for the next breakthrough eye surgery, I mean they used to do corrective surgery with knives haha.
That’s funny about the back-up glasses – I have some busted ones that I’ve had for years since my prescription is pretty stable, and a lot of times the lens pop out since they’re so old (one time in my dinner). I just can’t bring myself to pay for something I wear at home. Are you able to buy contacts that are for a month-long use? Maybe that might be cheaper, but not sure. Contact solution adds up, too!
Harry Campbell says
Haha in your dinner? Yea I know what you mean though, that’s the same reason why I don’t buy designer sweatpants 🙂
Unfortunately, the contacts I need all come in 2 week version only and in addition to crappy eyes, they are also very sensitive. I have had major problems in the past with redness and infection so I have to make sure to change them out every 2 weeks on the dot, clean them thoroughly, and I can’t use certain lens cleaners. Fun stuff I know.. At least I get to use my HSA to pay for contact solution though, so it’s all ~40% off!
Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says
Way to work the VSP. I only started wearing glasses a few years ago, but so far the costs aren’t crazy. We actually have a pretty sweet store nearby that even though it’s out of network for VSP ends up being incredibly cheap. And the glasses aren’t cheap POS stuff. I’m slowly trying to acquire a few different styles of glasses so I have choices, but I only buy one per year to maximize the VSP.
Harry Campbell says
Haha thanks, I have pretty bad vision so my costs are probably higher than most people’s. Sounds like you’ve got a good plan getting glasses once a year, you’ll have a nice collection before you know it.
Hey guys, I found a website that allows people with vision insurance to buy contacts and glasses online with insurance. I have VSP and was able to get my contacts for pretty much free, after my discounts.
They are IN-Network providers unlike all other websites I’ve found.
Just an FYI.
Harry Campbell says
The VSP in-network and out of network allowance is the same amount for most plans. See our updated article here: https://yourpfpro.com/got-480-worth-contact-lenses-20/