Eyeglasses are an oddball purchase. Most people who need them will buy them, but the amount they pay can vary greatly without much difference in quality. There are a few ways, however, to find glasses you like for a price that’s low on the scale.
First, consider whether you truly need prescription glasses. If you are farsighted, you may be able to improve your vision to your own satisfaction with a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses. I’ve seen these glasses priced as low as $0.99 in the past year. My father was once surprised to discover that a pair of reading glasses, which he purchased to use temporarily (until his broken prescription glasses could be replaced), helped him see better than his broken pair did.
If you discover that you do need prescription glasses (or a new prescription), find out if your insurance covers the purchase. Get the details. When our optometrist told my husband that his contacts were covered, I called to ask about my glasses and found I qualified for a free pair (which, somehow, still wound up costing $30) if I went to a different store — my usual eyeglass store did not accept my insurance.
If you don’t have optical insurance or your insurance covers very little for glasses, find out if your local warehouse club has an optical center. Glasses often cost significantly less there than at other eyeglass stores. The full price at warehouse clubs may even be less than the after-insurance costs elsewhere.
When you go to buy glasses, look near the back of the store for overcrowded, poorly lit racks of glasses. There you should find inexpensive frames that are often quite fashionable. If a salesperson catches you on your way, don’t let him talk you into buying the first pair he shows you. It will most likely be the highest-priced pair in the store. Likewise, don’t let him talk you into upgrading a pair you are already satisfied with, no matter how great he tells you they look on you. If you don’t need scratch resistance or glare resistance or ultra-light lenses, don’t take them. You may see very little improvement from the upgrades. You can also find online eyeglasses retailers which can be a great resource for comparison shopping online.
Buy only one pair of glasses at a time. Keep your old pair as backup in case your new pair breaks. If you think you need two pairs to avoid clashing with your clothes, be sure your single pair has neutral frames. If you want a pair of prescription sunglasses, consider buying clip-on or magnetic sunglasses to attach to your prescription glasses. They work well, and you don’t have to worry about changing pairs when you go inside. Some styles blend in so well that it’s hard to notice that the shades aren’t a permanent part of the glasses.
Don’t assume that you have to buy completely new glasses every year, even if you see your optometrist or ophthalmologist annually. If your prescription has not changed and your frames are still in good shape, keep them until they are nearly worn out. If your prescription has changed but your frames still look great, find out if you can have the lenses replaced with your new prescription. You may even consider putting new lenses in vintage eyeglasses that belonged to someone else in your family.
Once you have a new pair of glasses, take good care of them — make them last! Put them in a case at night, clean them with soft materials, and take them back for adjustments as necessary. (Most eyeglass stores will make minor adjustments for free.) Help for your eyes doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.