How to Get $1 Reading Glasses, $35 Glasses and Cheaper Contacts

You can clearly see how to save tons of money on glasses and contacts. You just need to focus on the right places.

How to Get $1 Reading Glasses, $35 Glasses and Cheaper Contacts Photo by Africa Studio /

Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you. At least it was for me, before I finally broke down and got glasses. I had been resisting for years, due to what my optometrist jokingly called “long-arm syndrome”: Because I had really long arms, I could hold books and newspapers farther and farther away from me as they became harder and harder to read.

When I finally reached the limits of my arm stretching, I finally got glasses.

Now, like everyone else who wears glasses, I need to regularly get my eyes checked and get new glasses (or at least new lenses) every couple of years — and what better time to do that than the start of the new year?

I started my search by looking at our “Definitive Guide to Slashing the Cost of Eyeglasses and Sunglasses,” which offers practical advice on buying new glasses or contacts. The main takeaways:

Start with cheap reading glasses

If you just need reading glasses, buy a bunch at the dollar store, then distribute them all over your house in places where you’ll want them, like on the nightstand, next to your favorite armchair, in your glove compartment, in the kitchen, etc.

If reading things is your only issue, do this and you’re done.

Check vision coverage and get a prescription

When it comes to “real” glasses, first check out any vision coverage you have in your health insurance. Then get your prescription. (According to the Federal Trade Commission, “your eye care provider must give you a copy of your contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions — whether or not you ask for them.”) Once you have your prescription, it’s time to go shopping.

Online is where the deals are

Your best deal will come from online sources. Why? High volume + low overhead = cheaper prices. You’ll often save up to 80 percent over traditional optical shops.

Shopping online may seem daunting, because you may think you can’t actually see how the frames look on you. Wrong: Most popular sites allow you to upload a digital picture of yourself, then add the frames you’re considering, so you can see exactly how you’ll look. In addition, many sites will allow you to select up to five frames, then have them sent to you without obligation. If you don’t like them, you can send them back at no cost.

Put all these advantages together, and online shopping isn’t just cheaper, it’s more convenient than going to a store.

Where to buy

Two of the highest-rated online stores for glasses are (get an even better deal, sign up for their free newsletter and earn an additional discount of up to 35 percent on your first order) and Warby Parker, which also donates to nonprofits that provide affordable eye exams and glasses to people in need.

If you really want to shop in a physical store, check out places like Costco and Sam’s Club. At Sam’s Club, for example, a basic $45 Sam’s Savings membership will get you $40 off a second pair of glasses when you buy two complete pairs of regularly priced eyeglasses (when not using vision insurance). There are also further optical discounts if you buy the $100 Sam’s Plus membership.

The most important piece of advice: Shop around. Don’t follow the old-fashioned method of going to a place that provides both eye examinations and glasses. You’ll end up facing a high-pressure salesperson while your eyes are still dilated, barely able to defend yourself!

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