Trust me when I say that in the 31 years I’ve been wearing prescription glasses, I’ve tried just about everything to make them cheaper. Some things worked – like that time I merely replaced my lenses and kept my beloved frames for three more years – and others, not so much.
I’m going to share with you 9 different tips for how to get cheap glasses so that you’ll always pay less than the whopping $187 median out-of-pocket cost people normally pay.
How to Save Money on Prescription Glasses
Below are my best, tried-and-true, strategies to save money on your next prescription eyeglasses.
Tip #1: Buy Eyeglasses Online
I went probably two decades without buying prescription sunglasses because I didn’t want to shell out the money.
Then one day I figured out a way to order a pair of prescription sunglasses online for just $17.64 (with shipping). Since my prescription hasn’t changed in over a decade, I still have that same pair.
While $17.64 might not be entirely realistic, know that the average pair costs just $91 online.
Here are several online discount eyeglass sellers (for either prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses):
Tip #2: Learn How to Shop Online for Eyeglasses
Next up, you’ll want to learn how to shop for eyeglasses online so that you can get as many discounts as possible.
When shopping online for glasses, you’ll want to do a quick search for any online coupon codes you can find. Many of these sites will actually send you coupons if you subscribe to their email newsletter.
Also, check to see if they will accept your vision insurance. While some very discounted eyeglass places will not, you can still try to submit a claim to your insurance company. It’s usually best to check with your vision insurance company before trying to submit a claim, though.
Tip #3: Reuse the Same Frames
I’ll never forget when an eye doctor informed me that I could keep the same frames I owned and loved, and simply update the lenses with my new prescription.
New frames can cost a lot of money. Instead, just replace the lenses with your new prescription.
How much does it cost to get new lenses in old frames? That depends on your prescription needs and any lens upgrades (such as anti-glare treatment or polycarbonate lens).
But trust me that doing this will save you gobs of money.
Tip #4: Maximize Your Vision Insurance Benefits
Find out if your vision plan has a fixed amount you get to spend each year, or is based on a percentage discount. If it’s a fixed amount, then call your insurer to see how much you have left to spend and see if you can’t come close to that.
And don’t forget to get your annual vision exam. Might as well, since you’re paying for it!
Tip #5: Open a Flexible Spending Account at Work
Did you know that eyeglasses typically count as a qualifying medical expense for flexible spending accounts (FSAs)?
A flexible spending account (FSA) is a special account you can contribute to each year with pre-tax money. As long as you use it for qualifying expenses, then you don’t owe payroll taxes on it.
That means when you open and use a FSA to buy your next pair of prescription eyewear, you get a tax savings (versus if you just spent the money on eyeglasses without running it through your FSA).
Tip #6: Give Your Current Pair an Upgrade
If your current pair of glasses is just fine, and your prescription hasn’t changed, then go ahead and keep them. You can even give them a really cheap (and sometimes, free) upgrade by going into the eye center at a Walmart and having them install new nose pads.
I’ve done that several times, plus gotten them adjusted (I sometimes bend my frames). Doing so made them feel so much better!
Tip #7: Have Your Employer Pay for them
Do you work in a field that requires Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)? See if part of that includes a sturdy pair of eyeglasses.
For example, I used to work as an environmental investigator. Part of the safety equipment required for that job was a pair of glasses with side-eye shields you could snap on or off.
That also meant I had to have an eye exam. So, for that year? I didn’t bother paying for my own exam and a new prescription. My employer paid it for me! I even opted out of vision insurance altogether once I heard about the benefit.
Tip #8: Buy Frames Online, Get Lenses in Person
Frames can actually be the most expensive part of a new pair of glasses.
One way to get around this – and still get the frame look you’re wanting – is to just order the frames online. You can then take them into a store for the prescription lenses that you need.
Some places allow this, and some do not. Make sure you call ahead.
Tip #9: Save the Second Pair on a “Get One Free” Deal
Has your prescription stopped changing?
Great – this tip is for you!
Wait for one of those buy-one-get-one-free sales for frames and lenses, and pick out a second pair. Keep that second pair in a safe location.
One year from now, you’ve got yourself a brand-new pair of eyeglasses…without having paid any extra or having used insurance to get them.
Remember that many of these strategies above can be used at the same time, such as buying eyeglasses online with pre-tax, FSA money to pay for them. Also, don’t forget that if you don’t have vision insurance at all, then one of the best ways to save money on glasses is simply by asking for a discount. The fact that you don’t have vision insurance gives you a reason to ask, and a reason for your eye doctor to help you out.
–By Amanda L. Grossman