I've needed glasses or contact lenses since I was 12 years old. That vision correction has come at a steep price.
Eye care is important, but it's also expensive. Many insurance plans don't cover optometry. From the cost of eye exams to reordering glasses, taking care of my vision has cost me more than $10,000 out of pocket over the span of my life (so far).
So, I am always looking for ways to save. Here are five tips on how to save money on the cost of eye care.
1. Get regular checkups
This might sound counterintuitive, but paying for regular eye exams is one of the best ways to save money on eye care over the long haul.
Why? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million Americans are at risk of losing their eyesight, but only half of these people have seen an eye doctor in the previous year.
Many common causes of blindness -- including glaucoma and macular degeneration -- are treatable if caught early, but irreversible if caught late. Once these problems have progressed, treatment and management will be more expensive, not less.
2. Look for mail-in rebates
Many eyeglass and contact lens manufacturers offer special deals in the form of mail-in rebates. This is especially true if you buy a one-year supply of contact lenses upfront.
Look for rebates and mail them immediately. Don't put it off until the weekend, or you might forget to do so -- and miss out on the savings.
3. Buy generic
Need contact lens solution? Generic-brand solution, such as the store brands carried by Target or Wal-Mart, is just as effective, safe and sterile as major brand-name solution.
4. Reuse old glasses frames
If your prescription changed but your eyeglasses are in good shape, ask your doctor if you can reuse your old frames.
Many providers allow you to put your new prescription lenses into your old frames. That saves both money and resources.
5. Pay with your HSA or FSA
Check with your human resources department to see if your health insurance plan is compatible with a health savings account or flexible spending account. If you are self-employed or self-insured, you can find this information in the sales materials that came with your health policy.
If you are eligible, open an HSA or FSA and use this money to pay for eligible eye care expenses. This allows you to cover your costs with pretax dollars.
Paula Pant helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, "Afford Anything," is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.