Glasses are a necessity for many people, but they can put a big drain on your wallet. Depending on your eyesight, you might even need prescription sunglasses that can cost even more than a regular pair.
As a wearer of glasses for all things distance and driving, I’ve learned to cut the cost of glasses big-time over the past couple of years.
During my first eye appointment that landed me a prescription, I was flabbergasted by all the prices. I was looking at $50 and up just for frames, plus another $100 or more for the lenses.
What did I do? Took my prescription and enlisted the help of my frugal self to figure out another option. Fortunately, I did – one that saved me $100 on my first pair.
The following tips will help you do the same for yourself, so you’ll never have to pay office prices for a pair of glasses again.
How Much Do Prescription Glasses Usually Cost?
According to CostHelper, the average pair of glasses in the United States runs consumers just under $200. That’s a lot of money to shell out, and it doesn’t even include the money you might have to spend for your out-of-pocket doctors’ visits, glasses repairs, cases, etc.
If you want any type of special upgrade, like scratch-resistant frames or light-sensing lenses, you should be prepared to keep tacking on more money.
There are some discount eyewear stores, but you should still expect slight savings over purchasing glasses from your optometrist. In most cases, you’ll still have to pay at least $100 per pair.
The first pair I originally picked out at my optometrist’s office would have cost me $220. That was including no bells and whistles; just a simple frame with a low-level lens that had some scratch-resistant properties.
I walked away with my prescription in-hand, researched some money-saving tips, and ended up with my first pair of glasses for $40.
Since then, I pay no more than $60 per pair, including prescription sunglasses, using many of the methods below.
How Can I Save Money on My Prescription Eyewear?
Saving money on your glasses isn’t rocket science. However, most people aren’t aware that there are other options when it comes to making a glasses purchase.
Honestly, I didn’t know either. It was just the luck of the draw that I decided to take a chance and go elsewhere to hopefully find a deal.
Optometrists make a lot of money on the eyeglass frames and lenses they recommend. They’re in business, too, so it’s not unusual for them to try to hard-sell you on a pair. Unfortunately, their prices are top-dollar and they don’t frequently have sales.
No matter how much you love your optometrist, it might be worth it for you to grab your prescription and pay attention to these tips:
1. Make an Appointment with Your Eye Doctor
I know I just said to think outside of the optometrist office, but sometimes you can wiggle out a good deal from your eye doctor.
First, it’s worth it to talk to your optometrist about your financial concerns. If he knows you’re on a budget and want a less expensive pair of glasses, he should work with you to find the best pair to fit within that budget.
There are various frame materials and styles that are less expensive than others, and he’ll know where the savings are.
If the type he points you toward is still too much, then at least ask your optometrist to measure your pupillary distance (PD) while you’re in the office.
This measurement is the distance between the center of your pupils and can be very difficult for you to get by yourself. You’ll need the measurement if you decide to order glasses online, which is one of the money-saving tricks I’ll get to in a moment.
If your optometrist won’t take the measurement for free, you can always visit a discount eyeglass retailer to see if you can get it. Or, check out the PD measurement tool at TryLive to do it yourself.
However, a professional measurement is usually the most accurate.
2. Take Advantage of 2-for-1 Sales
When you have to wear glasses for most of the day, you’ll want a second pair. Of course, that means you’ll have double the expense! A second pair is helpful, though, so that you don’t have to shell out money in an emergency situation if your glasses break unexpectedly.
That’s why I’m always on the lookout for 2-for-1 sales on glasses, which discount in-store and online retailers offer frequently. Your optometrist might even offer it as an option, or at least a second pair half off, as a first-time customer or after your budget talk.
A good way to find these deals is by keeping track of your local optometrist offers. Sometimes, you’ll find promotional ads in newspaper inserts or mailings for local offices that offer steep discounts on your first and second pairs.
Some even offer a free eye exam with the purchase of a pair or two of glasses for new customers! It’s worth checking out a new place if it’s going to mean big money savings.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Upgrades
I always thought I would want heavy-duty frames and only the best, scratch resistant glasses money could buy. But, that changed when I saw how much it costs to have all the fancy add-ons.
If you take good care of your glasses, you’ll usually find that you don’t need a lot of high-cost features meant to protect them.
Some people I know refuse to buy anything other than glasses with transition lenses that change to sunglasses in sunlight. They’re helpful, but prescription sunglasses can be even more effective.
And, yes, if you search around, you can find deals that will make both a regular pair of glasses and prescription sunglasses cheaper than buying one pair of glasses with transition lenses.
Think about what you want versus what you need, and you’re guaranteed to save some money on your glasses.
4. Make Sure You Get Your Money’s Worth
You would assume that, after spending $200 or so on a pair of glasses, your purchase would come complete with a case, cleaning cloth, and repair kit.
Although some eyeglass companies and optometrists do provide those, others will send you off with only a soft cloth case, as if that’s supposed to protect your valuable purchase.
Asking for all of these things with your purchase may not necessarily save you money on your glasses directly, but it can indirectly by protecting your glasses for longer. Depending on where you make your purchase, you might even score one free eyeglass repair with your purchase.
It’s worth your time to ask the retailer if it provides these money-saving options with your purchase. If not, you might want to look for a place that does.
5. Get an Insurance Plan with Vision Coverage
Does your current health insurance plan have vision coverage? If not, a supplemental vision insurance plan is a good way to go.
Check with your current plan first, as some dental plans even offer a rider for vision insurance for only a few extra dollars a month.
Good vision plans will not only cover most of the costs associated with routine and emergency eye care, but they’ll also give you an annual allowance for glasses.
You’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for any costs over the allowance, but many plans cover $100 or more for one pair every year.
You can check Consumer Affairs for some of the top vision insurance plans available.
The Best Way to Save: Use Discount Eyewear Websites
If you’re wondering what my number one method to saving the big bucks on my glasses is, here it is: websites for discount glasses.
I discovered a few of these while I was on the hunt for a budget-friendly option. Honestly, I had no idea there was even such a thing before I searched Google for ways to buy eyeglasses online.
What I found was better than I even imagined. There are quite a few credible sites that offer well-made, stylish glasses and a fraction of the cost you’d find them at your optometrist’s office, or even discount eyewear retailers.
Is It Safe to Purchase Eyewear Online?
Discount eyewear sites have been my saving grace since I’ve had to start wearing glasses. I can guarantee you that the ones I’ll talk about here are legit sites that really do send you your glasses after paying ridiculously low prices.
I can understand why a lot of people would be skeptical purchasing eyewear online. After all, how can you tell if they’ll look good on your face? How will the company know the details of your prescription?
I had the same concerns, too, until I bought my first pair. I spent time researching the company to make sure they wouldn’t scam me out of my money and that the glasses wouldn’t feel as cheap as the price I paid.
Here are a few things you can do before you send your money off to a company offering inexpensive glasses online:
- Check out the company’s BBB rating, complaints, etc. Make sure that the company is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and actively monitors, and resolves, any complaints it has.
- Read the return policy thoroughly. Companies that care about their customers will offer returns or refunds on glasses for certain circumstances, like getting the prescription wrong or the glasses arriving to you broken.
- Make sure the company verifies your prescription through your doctor. This is incredibly important in ensuring that your eyeballs get the right lenses to prevent further damage to your eyesight.
What Do I Need to Place an Order?
You’ll need your prescription from your optometrist before placing an order online. Double, triple, and quadruple-check your prescription when you enter it on the site to ensure that you entered everything correctly.
It can be difficult to return them if you made the error, as most sites will make you verify your information before placing the order.
Remember to also have your pupillary distance measurement in hand, as I mentioned before. Your order won’t go forward without this important measurement.
How Can I Maximize My Savings?
I’ve found that I can save even more on my prescription eyewear through discount sites by waiting until they have huge sales.
These companies are usually awesome at offering sales anyway, but there are times of the year when they might offer even steeper discounts, like Black Friday. You can usually find excellent promotions on prescription sunglasses toward the end of summer, for example.
I sign up for the newsletters of each of the companies I’ll talk about in a moment. That way, I’ll always have their current promotions delivered straight to my inbox and will know the best times to pick up a new pair.
I always have an extra pair of glasses as a backup, so I’m never in a crunch to order another. I just wait for the sales to come to me and snatch them up.
Don’t forget to use sites like Ebates or Swagbucks, which can give you cash back for your glasses purchases from various retailers. Swagbucks, for example, gives 1% cash back on Zenni Optical, 5% cash back on Eye Buy Direct, and 3% cash back on FramesDirect!
What Happens If I Hate How My Glasses Look or They Don’t Fit Correctly?
One of the biggest things that made me nervous about buying glasses online for the first time was hating how they looked on my face. It’s a legitimate concern because you don’t get to try them on in real life before spending money on them.
You might even find that they don’t fit well on your nose or rub against your ears too much.
The sites I’m going to talk about all have decent return policies in case you hate your glasses. Eye Buy Direct, for example, gives you 14 days to return or exchange your glasses for another pair. So, you’ll basically have a two-week trial period to make sure they’re right for you.
The best thing I can suggest is to utilize the virtual try-on system that these sites provide. They won’t let you feel how the glasses fit, but you’ll at least be able to get an idea of how the frame shape works with your face. This could save you a return in the future.
What Are the Best Discount Eyewear Sites?
I’ve personally used the three sites listed below to save money on my glasses, so I know that they’re legitimate sites that offer excellent frames and lenses.
I currently have six regular pairs and one pair of prescription sunglasses from these three companies and I love every single one of them.
Let’s start with my favorite (and the favorite of many of my friends who also decided to save money with discount eyewear sites!), Zenni Optical.
This place is known for its stylish frames. Honestly, it’s difficult for me to find just one pair to buy when I go on the site. Fortunately, there are several helpful filters you can use to narrow your options and find the perfect pair.
Zenni provides a PD ruler to print at home and help you measure your pupillary distance on your own. The instructions it provides are simple to follow. I’ve used it myself and it’s super accurate for me.
One of Zenni’s stand-out features is that it gives you a full 30 days to try out your glasses and send them back if they’re not right for you. You just have to contact the company, explain the issue, and receive a return authorization form.
I’ve never had to use this policy, but I’m glad it’s there and I’ve heard great things about it.
Eye Buy Direct is another company I use sometimes when they have an excellent sale going on, which they have throughout the year. For example, right now the company has a 50% discount on select frames to help ring in the new year!
You can find just about any type of frame and lens you want here, including a special lens that filters blue light from the computer screen and your mobile devices. That’s a huge benefit for people who work in front of a computer all day.
With the 14-day return policy, you can ensure that you’ll always love your glasses you buy from the company.
They even offers a little bonus for loyal customers with its Loyalty Rewards program, which gives you points for every purchase, extra discounts, and even a free premium case.
I’ve noticed that FramesDirect has some of the best prices and seems to always have a sale going on. I stay on top of its newsletter to know whenever a new sale arrives.
FramesDirect is a child company of Essilor, a global lens manufacturing company, so you can get a wide selection of quality lenses with each purchase.
This company, like Zenni, offers a 30-day return period where you can return or exchange your glasses for just about any reason, including an improper fit or disliking the color you picked.
The company makes it easy to exchange for a different pair for free, or get 90% of your purchase back if you want to return your glasses for a refund.
Buying eyeglasses online is a viable option for those who want to save a lot of money on prescription eyewear.
In addition to purchasing online, I suggest taking heed of some of my other suggestions, too, for the best savings possible when it comes to straightening up your vision.
What methods have you used to save money on glasses? Have you purchased any pairs online? We’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.