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How You Can Save Money on Eyeglasses

Get help for your peepers cheaper

spinner image an illustration of eyeglasses with dollar signs on them
Tommy Perez

Good eyeglasses do more than help you read traffic signs. They can help you read, work and use your computer, too. If you wear glasses, try to imagine life without them.

The biggest drawback: Good eyeglasses can cost enough to make your right eye twitch. Here’s how to see better without crying over the bill.

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Pay with pretax dollars

Have a health savings account or flexible spending account through your work? You can use funds from these accounts, which you build up with pretax income, to pay for eye exams and prescription glasses or contacts.

Buy your glasses online

You may find better pricing by bypassing stand-alone optometry stores or chains. More than half of consumers who bought their glasses online spent less than $100 on them, compared with a third of those who made the purchase in person, according to data from the Vision Council. “People tell us in surveys that they’re satisfied with glasses purchased online,” says Alysse Henkel, senior director of market research and analytics at the organization.

Know your numbers

Worried that frames purchased online won’t fit well? Henkel suggests looking at the three numbers inside the arm of an older pair of glasses. These measure the width of the frames’ lenses and bridge, and the length of the arm (or temple). You can use that information to find another pair that fit similarly — avoiding the cost of mailing back a bad fit.

Look for sturdy, more durable, nonbranded frames

When it comes to eyeglass quality, “the no-name brand is just as apt to work as well as the known brand,” says Timothy McCulley, M.D., chair of the Ruiz Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at UT Health Houston’s McGovern Medical School. In general, regardless of the brand, frames with thicker earpieces tend to last longer and retain their shape longer than thinner, daintier frames, McCulley says.

Skip high-index lenses if you have a simple prescription

Though high-index lenses, which refract light more efficiently than traditional glasses, may be a good choice for those who have a strong prescription and want thinner lenses, they’re an unnecessary upgrade for those with a lower-strength prescription. “People with less corrective needs don’t usually need to buy the thinner, high-index lenses,” Henkel says.

Shop around for contact lenses

Since your contact lens prescription will include not only the measurements but also the brand name of the lenses your doctor wants you to purchase, comparison shopping for them is very straightforward — and effective. You may save more by finding an online retailer that offers discounts for bulk purchases or for signing up for auto-delivery of future lenses.

Buy readers over the counter

For consumers without a major astigmatism, inexpensive over-the-counter reading glasses will usually suffice for close-up vision improvement, McCulley says. He suggests trying the glasses on in the store while holding your phone at the distance at which you want to read, to find a pair with the right strength.

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