Last year, my mom bought her first pair of prescription glasses. She wasn’t sure what they should cost, so she simply bought the frames she liked the best. It wasn’t until after she picked up her new glasses that she called to tell me: She had paid $450 for Armani frames.
I think my reaction went something like, “That’s crazy! Giorgio Armani would have had to make those glasses himself with gold-plated screws and diamond lenses to get me to pay $450!”
Then I found out I needed glasses myself. After my eye exam, I was presented with several rows of frames – many costing well over $600. Even the “bargain frames” cost around $200.
Clearly you can spend a ton on eyeglasses. But there’s good news: You can also save a ton. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson offers step-by-step instructions for saving up to 90 percent on prescription glasses. Check it out and then read on for more details….
As Stacy showed in the video, my mom could have easily saved hundreds. And you can too. Here are more details…
1. See if you’re covered
Before you schedule an eye exam, check your insurance coverage. Many health insurance plans cover all or some of the cost of vision expenses. But unless you ask, you might not know. For example, my health insurance covers the cost of an annual eye exam – and I wasn’t even aware I had vision coverage.
2. Make use of your FSA
Do you have a flexible spending account? If you can get one through your employer, it should cover many vision services, like:
- Eye exams
- Prescription glasses and sunglasses
- Reading glasses
- Contact lenses and solutions
If you’re already contributing to an FSA, use some of these funds to pay for your vision costs. If you’re not contributing to an FSA, do it the next opportunity you have. Since you can contribute money from your paycheck to your FSA before taxes are taken out, you’ll automatically save even more.
3. Start with an eye exam
Before you can buy prescription glasses, you’ll need two things: a prescription matching your vision needs, and your pupillary distance (the distance between your pupils). An optometrist can provide both. And thanks to something called the “Prescription Release Rule,” they’re required by federal law to give you a copy of your prescription, enabling you to take it with you and shop wherever you’d like.
If you’re using vision insurance to offset the cost of the eye exam, make sure to visit a clinic covered by your insurance. If you’re using an FSA, call beforehand to find the cheapest option. For example, my local Walmart offered the cheapest deal I could find – $100 per exam. You may also qualify for a free or reduced eye exam through volunteer or state-run programs. Eligibility varies, but FreeEyeExam.org has a list of free exams by state.
When you visit the optometrist, ask for a written copy of your prescription and your pupillary distance. Then see where the best deals are…
4. Warehouse clubs
Warehouse clubs sell prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses cheaper than many other brick-and-mortar retailers, and you’ll occasionally get even better prices. For example, right now Sam’s Club is offering $40 off your second pair of prescription glasses for Plus members, and BJ’s Wholesale Club has $20 off a complete pair. Check out Costco too.
5. Discount stores
As Stacy mentioned in the video, he picks up simple reading glasses from dollar stores. I buy mine from discount and overstock stores, and I’ve found some great deals. In fact, I just bought a three-pack of decent-looking reading glasses at TJ Maxx for $11.99 – that breaks down to about $4 a pair.
You can find good deals on cheap reading frames all over town. Also check out Ross, Marshalls, Big Lots, and Walmart.
6. Buy online for bigger discounts
You’ll most likely find the best deals on prescription eyeglasses online. Some sites offer basic frames with single-vision lenses and tinting for under $10. Here are a few sites that have gotten decent reviews from bloggers and others:
- Zenni Optical – Glasses start at $6.95
- EyeBuyDirect.com – Glasses start at $6.95 with free anti-scratch coating
- Optical4Less – Glasses start at $15
- 39DollarGlasses.com – Prices start at $39 with occasional sales
A word of warning: Some sites sell low-quality products, while others have horrible customer service. Before you buy a pair of glasses from a website, make sure they have a return policy and check out a complaint site like Ripoff Report or Complaint Wire to see if other customers have had problems. Also be aware that online stores are probably best for simpler, inexpensive prescriptions and for those customers requiring less personal service. The more complicated the prescription, the higher the cost, and therefore the risk, of buying online.
7. Take advantage of coupons and special offer deals
The Internet is full of product coupons, and eyeglasses are no different. Before you buy your next pair, use an online coupon site to find a better deal. The GlassyEyes blog regularly posts sales and special offer deals for online eyeglass retailers. You can also find coupons on sites like The Optical Blog, RetailMeNot, and Slickdeals.
8. Find free repair or replacement deals
If your glasses get scratched or bent out of shape, be aware that some retailers offer free repair and/or replacement. For example, LensCrafters offers their customers unlimited cleaning and adjustments. EyeBuyDirect.com guarantees most of their glasses for 12 months. Many optometrists will also replace your contact lenses free if they’re bothering your eyes.
Bottom line? Here at Money Talks, we’re supporters of local brick-and-mortar businesses, especially the locally owned kind. So we’d encourage you to check online prices, then beat the local bushes to see if you can use those prices to get a home-grown better deal. But if you’re focused only on savings, you’ll probably be ordering your next pair of glasses online.