Kim Parr is an optometrist by day and blogger by night. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.
If you are one of the approximately 36 million people in the US who wear contact lenses, you probably know how these little pieces of water and polymer can improve vision and quality of life. You probably also know that they can be expensive, but there are many ways to save money on contact lenses.
1. Compare Prices
Many people assume ordering contacts online is cheaper, but this isn’t always the case. Just like with any product, there are various sales and promotions. Big box stores often carry lenses and offer good prices. Private offices will sometimes match online prices and might throw in extras like free solution or a discount on glasses. Private offices are also more likely to provide better service if you do have a problem with your contacts throughout the year.
Use Coupon Code CJP-GH14 (expires May 7, 2014).
2. Check Your Insurance
Most people are aware that if they have vision insurance, it generally helps pay for contacts, but many people might not be aware of discounts from their medical insurance. I have Anthem Blue Cross health insurance, which offers 20% off if I order contacts through certain online vendors. If you register with your insurance’s website, there is usually a tab that lists discounts for having their coverage.
3. Don’t Wait Until You Are Out of Lenses
If you wait until you run out of contacts to reorder, you are pretty much at the mercy of whoever has the fastest way to your lenses, especially if you are leaving town or have a high prescription. I can’t tell you how many people have called my office in a panic because they have no glasses, lost or tore their last lens, and are leaving for vacation in two days. They are willing to pay whatever it costs to get contacts in time, often shelling out more for shipping than the actual cost of the lenses. A good rule of thumb is to order or schedule on your second to last pair. That way you have time to shop around and won’t have to pay overnight shipping.
4. Buy an Annual Supply
Buying an annual supply is almost always less expensive and often includes a rebate. It also eliminates shipping costs for placing multiple orders and means you are less likely to run out of lenses and have to pay a premium to get something last minute.
5. Use Your Flex Plan or Health Savings Account
If you have a flex spending plan or health savings account, contact lenses are an approved medical purchase. Using one of these plans can be like getting a 25% or greater discount in tax savings!
6. Know Your Contacts
When you have an eye exam, if the doctor knows which brand of lenses you’ve been wearing AND if you aren’t having problems, often he can just renew the prescription for a lesser contact lens service fee. If you have no clue and are a new patient, even if you love your current lenses, you will have to be charged as a new fit, which is usually more expensive. Either keep a copy of your old prescription or an old box that has all the numbers visible. Don’t forget to bring it to the exam
As a doctor, I cannot okay a lens that doesn’t fit or breathe well on your eye, but if there are no problems, I am happy to continue a successful prescription. It is impossible to tell what prescription a soft contact lens is just by looking at it on your eye, so bring that paperwork!
7. Talk to Your Doctor
If you are in a financial bind and really need your contacts, talk to your doctor. As I mentioned before, I have to prescribe lenses that allow good vision and are healthy for your eyes, but sometimes there are many different choices that provide this. All doctors have their “go to” lens that works well for most patients, but I can almost always find a less expensive alternative or set up a payment plan for people who need it.
I would much rather spend a little time looking for a less expensive option than see you back in three months to treat an ulcer from contact lens overwear because you couldn’t afford to buy replacements.
8. Don’t Overwear Lenses!
Trying to save money by overwearing your contacts is a really stupid idea. You might get lucky for a long time, but it always catches up. People who chronically overwear lenses have one of two things that generally happen. Either you get a painful infection or ulcer that can cost hundreds of dollars to treat, or you cause corneal warpage after years of long term abuse. These conditions make contact lens wear uncomfortable or impossible. If you like your eyes and their ability to wear contact lenses, then follow the rules. I promise you’ll be thankful later.
How have you saved money on contact lenses? Are your contacts a want or need?