6 Ways to Save Money on Eyeglasses

By Linsey Knerl on 18 April 2010 (Updated 18 April 2011) 19 comments

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This article shares tips from the newest episode of Dealista, our podcast that'll help you get more for less.

It’s National Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, and that means time for everyone (even the guys) to replace their worn out glasses for some new ones! But before you fork out big dollars, read our tips for saving big on your eye care expenses!

Check Your Insurance

Many people are unaware if their regular medical insurance plan covers eye care. If you’re one of them, get informed! While it may not cover actual glasses or contacts, some plans do cover exams and will offer discounts to additional services (like laser surgery). Check the plan’s fine print or contact your HR rep through your workplace to find out what’s available to you.

Use That HSA or FSA

In addition to the awesome tax perks that you can get from taking advantage of these savings plans, they can be a useful way to sock away money for a much-needed replacement pair of lenses. If you’re finding yourself with extra FSA funds at the end of a tax year, this is a great way to use it up. HSA’s will also cover some additional eye care expenses (like contact lens solution). Again, it’s best to check your plan carefully to see what qualifies.

Order Online

If this is going to be your first pair of eyeglasses or contacts, you may want to stick to ordering in-clinic. For the rest of us, you may be comfortable ordering from an online discount chain like 39Dollar Glasses. I’ve used the service myself, and while the quality is nothing compared to my favorite $300 Kate Spade frames that I wear most often, it’s a great way to snag a cheap pair of “backup” frames or for getting fast replacement when the budget is extremely tight. You’ll want to have a current prescription from your eye doctor, as well as measurements for making sure you get a good fit before you order.

(Editor's Note: We were recently made aware of this useful guide on Cheapism that reviews many of the online outlets. Check it out before buying your glasses online.)

Take Advantage of Repair and Replacement Plans

Some clinics will offer one free replacement or repair on certain kinds of lenses, and most reputable eye doctors that I know will switch your contact lens brand for free if you have trouble wearing them. In addition, retailers like Walmart will replace kids’ lenses for up to a year from the date of purchase for free, and many big chains like Lens Crafters may adjust or repair your frames from another store — no questions asked. To get an idea of what’s available to you, just call your closest eye clinic and ask!

Read Up

There’s no better way to save money than by being an informed consumer. That’s why I like the Glassy Eyes blog, a journal about saving money on eyeglasses that includes reviews for retailers, discount codes, and clever hacks to help you from overpaying on your eye care.

Hack It

I wouldn’t recommend this for your best pair of designer frames and lenses, but as a last resort alternative to tossing your beat up frames, you might want to try Armour Etch.

Dealista is a collaboration between Wise Bread and Quick and Dirty Tips, the producer of popular podcasts such as Grammar Girl, Money Girl, Winning Investor, and Mighty Mommy.

If you enjoyed these tips you can find more in our show's archive.

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Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with this to a certain extent.  However, for some of us, cheap lenses and frames aren't an option and paying extra for expertise is something that doesn't bother me.  I have a long list of eye issues...nearsighted, astigmatism, double vision, bifocals, etc.  When I was first diagnosed with double vision and needed bifocals, I asked my ophthalmologist where I should purchase my glasses.  She gave me the name of a one man shop.  I took him my Rx and he quoted me a price of 400.00.  I almost fainted.  I went to all the mall stores and got quotes which were much less.  I took all the quotes back to my doctor.   The mall stores were going to put in inferior lens, didn't understand the Rx and on and on.  I may pay more for the guy who owns his own business, but he is able to work with my doctor to get my Rx CORRECT and has me seeing 20/20 which is amazing.  

Linsey Knerl's picture

I couldn't agree with you more!  For many people, it's not practical to shop this way.  A good example of someone who can take advantage of cheap glasses is my husband.  He had laser eye surgery a few years back, and it left him with much better vision than before.  He still needed glasses, however, and due to the nature of his work, they were always getting scratehd and bent.  Since this essentially amounted to "disposable" frames, we got him one good $200 pair and a couple of the cheapos for when he's working in the shop.  I no longer cry when they get trashed :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Sounds like the doctor and one man shop maded a sucker out of you.

Guest's picture
Svil

I have an inside look of the industry. The guest is right that sometime expertise is expensive and glasses are one of the things that you should buy with more care.

Guest's picture
Svil

I have an inside look of the industry. The guest is right that sometime expertise is expensive and glasses are one of the things that you should buy with more care.

Guest's picture
M

I always go to Sam's Club or Costco for my perscription (about $50) then buy my glasses at ZenniOptical. Last time I splurged and bought from the $12 category.

The quality is just as good as at Lens Crafters as far as I can tell, and I like being able to get a pair of perscription sun glasses without breaking the bank.

I just have pretty straightforward typical myopia though so I don't need anything fancy, just some curvy glass.

Guest's picture
Ryan
Will Chen's picture

"Many people are unaware if their regular medical insurance plan covers eye care."

This is a great tip.  A lot of insurance plans come with basic eye/dental care but they don't advertise it. 

Guest's picture
Swilkers808

I just received my glasses from an online source and they are great!

 

www.glassesunlimited.com

 

With shipping $20!  The only downside is that it took 21 days to get my glasses.

Guest's picture
Guest

Find the frames you like.  Write down (if you can b/c optical stores cover this up on the fram temple) and go online and buyt heframes yourself.  Then send them to framesdirect.com and they will beta any price.  And, often times have coupons.  Local eyeglass places have rent.  Framesdirect can do it cheaper.

Guest's picture
Joe

Great tips. I always buy my frames online, specifically on eBay. I purchase new-old-stock glasses, glasses from the 50s, 60s, 70s that were sitting in some optometrist's basement for years, never fitted with lenses. Much cheaper and more unique than modern designer frames.

Also, I second the Armour Etch tip. The anti-reflective coating was so scratched up on my lenses that I had to try something drastic. I actually posted a tutorial about it on my blog that's proved to be helpful to a lot of people. If you're interested, check it out: http://bkish.com/2009/03/15/readers-fixing-readers/

Guest's picture

I googled eyeglass frames and found a great pair from Coach that I liked. I printed out the page, went to my eye doctor and showed him the frames. He said he could order them at the same price and although I felt a little embarrassed going in and asking for the deal, I got my glasses for UNDER $200. Sweet!

Guest's picture
Guest

Start saving money on everything online by shopping through Buyer United. Its free to sign up and you will get discounts anywhere from 5-50% on all of your purchases, and the best thing is it is completly free to sign up. the site id

http://www.west.buyerunited.com

Here are a few examples of stores for eyeglasses and thier discounts Buyer United offers

coastal contacts 10-31% Buyer United savings
lens crafters 10-25% Buyer United savings
contacts america 8-30% Buyer United savings

if your going to buy your glasses or contacts online you might as well get them through http://www.west.buyerunited.com and save money while your doing it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the Zenni Optical reference. The glasses are super cheap, but comparable in quality. I have pretty straight-forward myopia and mild cataracts...look at Zenni optical...once I found out about them, I haven't bought from anyone else. Even if you don't like the look of the frames...it costs maybe $12 bucks to try another frame...

Guest's picture

If you really like your eyeglass frames but your prescription keeps changing, a great thing to do is find a good prescription eyeglass lens replacement service that will put new lenses into your existing frames. One site that I have used and really like is www.replacementlensexpress.com. Ordering online was really easy, and their customer support personnel was really great. I bought single vision lenses for just $25! The best part is that they deliver in 2-5 business days, whereas most other companies take anywhere from one to two weeks. I think RLE makes their lenses in the U.S. which reduces shipping time.

Guest's picture
Kate J.

I planned to use my HSA to pay for eye glasses and it was one of the best decisions I could've made! I fell in love with some frames that were a bit out of my price range, but luckily, I had saved money in my HSA and was good to go. I'd recommend the staff at Techridge Vision in Austin - http://www.techridgevision.com - they're great!

Guest's picture

I've been buying glasses online. They have varied in quality, but I can buy 10 frames online for the price of 1 at the optometrist.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Target store near my home has a new optical department. I bought my new glasses there (I brought my current prescription from my eye doctor), and saved 30% off the total bill by using my AAA card. Well worth it!

Guest's picture
Kirk

Make sure you get your PD (pupilary distance) from your optometrist. This is required to make accurate Rx lenses, but it's often not noted on the Rx slip you get from your doctor. This can be measured yourself, however, if you don't have a complicated prescription and some of the online eyeglass sellers actually provide instructions for doing so.