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How to Keep the Cost of Eyeglasses Low

By Shannon Christman

Eyeglasses don’t fit neatly into any budget category, but if you have made room for them in your budget (perhaps under medical expenses), they are a good item to focus on when making cuts. The amount you pay for glasses can vary greatly without much difference in quality, and there are a few ways 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. These glasses are sometimes priced as low as $0.99, and some people find them to work as well as prescription glasses.

If you are certain that you need prescription glasses (or a new prescription), find out if your insurance covers the purchase.  Get the details.  You may learn that one store will offer a discount with your insurance but another will give you a free pair, or you may have to schedule your eyeglass purchases for certain time intervals.

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 lower 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 frames he shows you.

They will most likely be the highest-priced pair in the store. Likewise, don’t let him talk you into upgrading from a pair you are already satisfied with, no matter how great he tells you the new pair looks on you

If your doctor doesn’t recommend scratch resistance or glare resistance or ultra-light lenses, don’t take them. You may notice very little improvement from the upgrades. 

Buy only one pair of glasses at a time. Keep your old pair as backup in case your new pair breaks.  If you would normally buy 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.) 

Above all, remember that help for your eyes doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.


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