From an eye exam to new eyeglasses, here are 10 ways the IRS can help improve your family's vision
Expecting some money back this tax season? Sure, you could blow it all on a getaway. Or you could spend a little—just a little!—on your family's eye health and vision needs.
After all, your eyes manage 80% of all of the information you take in and are the second-most complex part of your body. Yet many people neglect them.
In fact, only half of the 61 million U.S. adults at high risk for vision loss have an annual eye exam, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the main deterrents is cost.
Is your family up-to-date with their eye exams? Book an appointment today!
But here’s the thing: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to protect your eyes and improve your vision.
In recent years, the average taxpayer has received a $2,700 refund, give or take. Just a fraction of that will go a long way toward keeping your family's eyes healthy.
Not sure where to start? We have a few ideas.
IF YOUR SPENDING LIMIT IS $200
Buy an annual supply of contact lenses. Contact lenses have a lot that puts them in the plus column: They move with your eye, offer a natural field of view, and won’t fog up in the cold.
Even if you love your eyeglasses, contact lenses are nice to have on hand to wear during workouts or for special occasions.
At America's Best, a year’s supply of Sofmed 55 two-week contact lenses is $119.92 for Eyecare Club members; $191.92 for non-members. A year's supply of Sofmed 1-Day dailies are $299.92 for Eyecare Club members; $359.92 for non-members.
Upgrade your sunglasses. Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory—they’re vital to eye health. That’s because the sun’s ultraviolet rays don’t just burn your skin; they can also damage your eyes, says Deanna Paul-Blanc, O.D., a Nashville–based optometrist located inside an America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses.
And don’t think you’re safe just because it’s winter, either. You may not get sunburned as easily, but snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Plus, sunglasses help create an extra barrier against dry winter air and harsh winds.
Pick up a pair of 100% UV protection sunglasses, available in several styles starting at $59.95, at America’s Best. Add single-vision prescription plastic lenses with UV, tint, and scratch protection for $50—bringing the total to just $109.95.
Switch your child’s prescription lenses to Transitions®. For younger patients, Transitions® lenses, which automatically darken when exposed to sunlight, are a great option, says optometrist Elizabeth Walsh Czirr, O.D., with Nashville Regional Eye Care, located inside an America’s Best in Kingsport, Tenn.
“Kids have a hard enough time wearing one pair of glasses, let alone two,” she says. “Transitions® lenses are great—so they have one pair of glasses for everything and don’t need to worry about switching back and forth.”
America’s Best offers Transitions® for kids 13 and under for $109, plus the price of the frame. Add the one-year KidsGear Protection Plan for $20.
Merge two prescriptions into one frame. It’s not uncommon to wear one pair of eyeglasses for getting around and another for computer work or other up-close activities.
But who wants the hassle?
Bifocals and progressive lenses are a convenient way to toss one of those pairs. Both options have their pros and cons, and your eye doctor can help you decide which one is right for you.
With bifocals, each lens has two parts—one to help you see up close, another for far away. They offer a wide field of view and are more affordable than progressives. But some bifocals have a slight line between the two parts, and that can cause a visual “jump.”
“With progressives, you get seamless vision from distance to near,” says Dr. Paul-Blanc.
Plus, some upgrades offer a wider field of view, sharper vision, and an anti-glare coating, cutting down on nighttime visual distortions.
Two pairs of lined bifocals and an exam cost $99.95. Add UV protection, scratch resistance, tinting (optional), plus a one-year Product Protection Plan, for $69—bringing the total to $168.95. Two pairs of no-line progressives and an exam start at $188.45. Adding UV protection, scratch resistance, tinting (optional), and a one-year Product Protection Plan brings the total to $219.95.
IF YOUR SPENDING LIMIT IS $100
Book an eye exam (or three). The best thing you can do for your eyes is keep up on your annual eye exams, says Dr. Paul-Blanc. Beyond catching vision problems, these regular checkups can also pick up changes in your eye tissues, blood vessels, and nerves that may signal high blood pressure or other health problems.
At America’s Best, exams are free when you select any two pairs of eyeglasses. A contact lens eye exam is $89. Or join the Eyecare Club for $99 to get three years of eye exams (up to two per year), plus a 10% discount on contact lenses, glasses, and accessories. (The Eyecare Club is not available in California; click here for details about ways to save through the America’s Best Vision Plan for California Residents.)
Gain peace of mind with your child's eyeglasses. Let’s face it: Kids tend to break their glasses—a lot. Lucky you, the children's eyeglasses at America's Best are outfitted with flexible frames and polycarbonate lenses, which are sturdier than traditional plastic lenses and have built-in UV protection, says Dr. Czirr.
That means there’s one less thing to worry about when they suit up for a team sport or decide to turn your backyard into an American Ninja Warrior course.
Get two pairs of prescription eyeglasses for $69.95, and America’s Best will cover the eye exam and polycarbonate lens upgrade for free. Add a KidsGear Product Protection Plan for $20 for one pair or $30 for both. That’s a grand total of $99.95!
IF YOUR SPENDING LIMIT IS $20
Splurge on quality artificial tears. Dry eye affects millions of Americans, and your risk goes up after age 50, according to the National Eye Institute. It happens when tear production decreases (which occurs naturally with age) or when tear evaporation increases (because the air is dry, or because you are staring at a screen and forgot to blink).
“Artificial tears may cost a few more bucks than eye drops that are meant to relieve redness,” says Dr. Paul-Blanc, “but they’re better for your eyes because they actually address the underlying cause of dryness and can prevent the evaporation of tears.”
Look for drops with a cellulose base (the word will appear in the active ingredients section on the product label). This thicker formula lasts longer than water-based products, Dr. Paul-Blanc says. Steer clear of those with benzalkonium chloride, a chemical preservative that can cause redness and irritation, especially in people with sensitive eyes.
Dr. Paul-Blanc recommends Systane® and Refresh Tears® eye drops, which you can find at pharmacies.
Build a home eye-care kit. “Glasses are an investment,” says Dr. Paul-Blanc, “so invest in taking care of them.”
She suggests starting with a proper lens cleaner and microfiber cloth. Ammonia-based glass cleaners will actually damage prescription lenses, she says. And paper towels can scratch and leave a residue.
A simple eyeglass repair kit is another good thing to keep on hand, in case you notice a loose hinge on your frames or need to replace a lost screw.
At America's Best, refillable bottles of America’s Best Spray Cleaner are $4.99 to $7.99. Cleaning kits that include a microfiber cloth are $4.99 to $7.99. Keychain screwdrivers are $1.99.
Grab an eyeglass case. When you or your kids take off your eyeglasses, where do you stash them? On the nightstand? In a purse or backpack? On the bathroom counter?
All convenient options. But also not good for your frames.
Spending a few bucks on a hard case, with a supportive shell and soft interior that prevents scratches, may save you the expense of repairing or replacing eyeglasses later, says Dr. Paul-Blanc.
Available at America’s Best for $1.99 to $6.99.
Stock up on Croakies® bands. Dr. Paul-Blanc loves these little bands, which attach to eyeglasses and wrap around your child’s head to keep their glasses in place during sports or at the trampoline park.
Available at America’s Best for $5.99 to $6.99.