4 Steps to Finding Eyeglasses for Less Than $20

You can save tons of money on eyeglasses, reading glasses and contact lenses if you know where to look.

4 Steps to Finding Eyeglasses for Less Than $20 Photo by goodluz / Shutterstock.com

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 have long arms, I could hold books and newspapers farther and farther away from me as the type became harder and harder to read.

When I 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.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Start with cheap reading glasses

If you just need reading glasses, buy a bunch at a dollar store.

Then, distribute them all over your home in places where you’ll want them — like on your nightstand, next to your favorite armchair and in the kitchen. Don’t forget your purse or car, too.

2. Check vision coverage and get a prescription

When it comes to “real” glasses and contact lenses, first check out any insurance coverage you might have. Then, get your prescription.

Under federal law, an eye doctor must give you a copy of your prescription if you get a fitting for glasses or contacts. The Federal Trade Commission explains:

“The doctor can’t require you to pay an extra fee, buy eyeglasses or contact lenses, or sign a waiver or form.”

Once you have your prescription, it’s time to go shopping.

3. Look for deals online

The best deals on eyeglasses are often found online.

Some online retailers allow you to upload a photo of yourself, and then add frames you’re considering to the picture so, you can see how you’d look in a particular pair of glasses.

In addition, some sites allow you to select more than one set of frames to be sent to you without obligation. If you don’t like them, you can send them back at no cost. Other sites offer free returns within a certain time period in case the glasses you ordered don’t work out.

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

4. Know where to shop

Online retailers that specialize in prescription eyewear include:

  • Coastal, which sells eyeglasses for as little as $19 as well as contact lenses and sunglasses. Coastal also offers free shipping to anywhere in the U.S. and free returns within 30 days.
  • Warby Parker, which sells eyeglasses and sunglasses. Warby Parker also offers a Home Try-On program and has stores in some states. The try-on program lets you test out five frames for five days for free before buying.

If you really want to shop in a physical store, check out the optical departments of warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club. Members may also be entitled to extra discounts on eyewear.

At Sam’s Club, for example, a $100 Sam’s Plus membership gets you $50 off your first pair of glasses if you also buy a year’s supply of contact lenses.

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 may end up facing a high-pressure salesperson while your eyes are still dilated.

What’s your experience with shopping for eyeglasses? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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