How We Bought Inexpensive, Awesome Glasses Online
Mr. Frugalwoods needed glasses. After years of competing over who could discern distant signs on roadtrips first, age finally caught up with my mountain/computer man.
Both of his vocations–software engineering and forestry management/homesteading–require the ability to see clearly. As does, you know, life in general.
Last year he started getting headaches and complained of blurry vision and so, the time had come. I sent him to the eye doctor. Verdict: his vision isn’t terrible, but it’s enough that glasses make his life better. And who doesn’t want a better life?!
A LASIK Sidenote
Longtime readers will recall that I, oh haver of terrible vision since middle school, got LASIK surgery exactly four years ago, which I still consider one of the best things money ever bought (second, of course, to our marriage license and the co-pay for Babywoods’ birth).
The full rundown on my LASIK story is here: Why LASIK Surgery Is The Best $4,225 I’ve Ever Spent. TLDR: I wore contact lenses and glasses for a decade before getting LASIK and I love it, it is amazing, and I highly recommend it. Yet another reason to be frugal: the ability to pay cash (and thus secure a discount) on LASIK surgery. Hooray! If you live in the Boston area and would like a referral to the doctor who performed my surgery, shoot me an email.
To continue the full circle of frugality, after I got LASIK I donated all of my glasses and unused contact lenses to my Buy Nothing Group. I posted my prescription and, sure enough, a fellow Buy Nothing member had the exact same prescription. Frugal kismet; it’s everywhere.
Mr. FW’s Eyeball Situation
Ok back to Mr. FW’s eyeballs… He’s not to the point where he wants to pay for LASIK or contact lenses because he doesn’t need his glasses 100% of the time. Unlike my pre-LASIK self, he can walk around a room, read, and not bump into Frugal Hound sans glasses.
Following an eye exam that confirmed his less than 20/20 vision, we investigated our vision insurance and learned he could get a pair of glasses for free. We thought: Yay, solution! And so, we trekked over to the eye glass store. We told the diligent eyeglasses salesperson our insurance situation and that we wanted to get a pair of glasses that’d be covered in full. Well. This apparently is not in keeping with the business model of roping people into the store and then upselling them on all of the lovely–and pricey–glasses available.
After repeatedly asking to see the glasses covered in full by insurance, and being repeatedly shown glasses that “only cost $100 or $200 more,” we finally said that we had no money (slight lie… ) and would not buy anything other than the free eyeglasses. With a huff and an eye roll, the salesperson pointed to the lowest, dustiest shelf in the display case where the “free” glasses resided.
Apparently few other patrons insist upon only seeing the free options. Much to their dismay, Mr. FW selected one of these covered-in-full frames. Unfortunately, as you might’ve supposed, these free glasses were not very comfortable for poor Mr. FW’s face and after toughing it out for over a year, he decided to get new lighter-weight, better-fitting glasses.
Actually, I forced him to do so because I could tell his glasses were bothering him and I know he won’t spend money on himself without prompting from his lovely wife. Having seen the exorbitant prices of glasses in a traditional optician’s office, we figured there had to be a cheaper way.
Being digital frugal weirdos, we turned to our #1, chief, preeminent resource for free/cheap stuff and all other stuff too: le internet! Indeed, the world wide web has reduced prices on everything from electric kettles to greeting cards to Amazon mattresses. Magic, I tell you.
Finding An Online Eyeglass Purveyor
There are, unsurprisingly, quite a few options for internet eyeglasses and Mr. FW ran the numbers on every website he googled across.He learned that in addition to the cost of the frames themselves, one must account for the cost of the lenses, the shipping (duh), and any other add-ons one might enjoy such as scratch-resistance and glare mitigation (I’m sure that’s not what it’s actually called, but you know what I mean). The most cost-effective retailer turned out to be Eye Buy Direct.
Not The Dirt Cheapest
I must note that Eye Buy Direct is not the dirt cheapest online eyeglasses retailer. Pre-LASIK I ordered several pairs of $5 glasses from the dirt cheapest online prescription eyeglasses retailer (Zenni Optical) and they were pretty awful. I could sort of see out of them, but they made me dizzy and it was clear the prescription wasn’t accurate.
So, yeah, that was $5 wasted. This was a lesson to me in the value of finding the tenable middle ground between mammoth expense and mammoth stinginess.
Knowing he didn’t want to make the same mistake I had, Mr. FW polled friends who’d bought glasses online and did research on Reddit and other online haunts where people discuss the purchase of eyeglasses. What he learned is that there’s a really loooooow tier (the one I unadvisedly bought $5 glasses from), a really high-end tier ($$$$$!!!!!), and then a just right middle tier, of which Eye Buy Direct emerged as many people’s favorite.
Mr. FW selected Eye Buy Direct because people generally reported that although they’re not as cheap as some sites, the frame construction and materials are better and worth the added expense. It appears that the high-end tier (think Warby Parker) nets you a nicer website and potentially more fashionable frames to choose from along with, of course, higher price tags.
Eye Buy Direct
In addition to having a hilarious name, Eye Buy Direct had quite a few features we liked. Namely, Mr. FW was able to upload a photo of his face and then “try on” frames to see how they’d look on his noggin. The measurements for the frames were also listed so we busted out a ruler and measured his existing glasses and face to see how large or small each pair would be.
Plus, the site lets you refine your search by the style, size, weight, and color of the frames. The ordering process was straightforward and Mr. FW ticked the boxes for everything he wanted: scratch resistance and glare mitigation.
Since the frames were so inexpensive, he decided to splurge on the ultimate luxury: prescription sunglasses. Everyone who wears glasses just went “ooohhh, ahhh” while everyone who doesn’t wear glasses went “huh?!”
Allow me to explain. If you wear glasses, you still need to wear them even when the sun is blistering down on you in scalding, unrepentant rays. And there you sit, squinting like a mofo in your glasses. Or, awkwardly balancing sunglasses on top of your glasses (as a certified cheapskate, I did that for years and, in a word, it’s absurd). Mr. FW played this unfortunate glasses dance for a year and I implored/informed him to get sunglasses. There’s nothing sadder than a man trying to hike with two pairs of glasses on. It’s just wrong.
$$ Our Grand Total $$
Mr. FW’s full cash outlay was $79.35 which includes:
- One pair of prescription eyeglass frames + lenses with scratch and glare resistance (with an oleophobic coating)
- One pair of prescription sunglass frames + lenses with scratch and glare resistance (with an oleophobic coating)
For comparison, we estimate the glasses alone (not including the sunglasses) would be circa $400 in a traditional store and $150 from a high-end online retailer.
What You Need
Before you fling yourself into the wilds of internet eyeglasses, be forewarned that you need your current prescription, which you can obtain from your eye doctor.
You’ll need your pupillary distance as well as the specific Rx for each eye (note that they can be different). Helpfully, Eye Buy Direct has a guide on all of this.
But What If I Hate Them?!?
I wondered the same thing!! This is, after all, a pair of glasses we’re talking about and you can’t try them on until after you buy them. Eek! But fret not, this is another reason why we chose the site we did. Eye Buy Direct has a 14 day return policy allowing you to return or exchange your glasses within two weeks after receiving them. They also have a 365 day product guarantee that allows a one-time replacement of a pair of glasses.
Delivery Of Glasses To Our Home
Mr. FW’s glasses were delivered as expected, thanks to updates via email from Eye Buy Direct. They were carefully packaged in boxes inside of other boxes to prevent any nefarious en route breakage. In addition to the heaps of money we saved, we also saved a considerable amount of time by ordering online.
We didn’t have to make an appointment, drive all the way to the optician, sit through their sales pitches, and try on thousands of overpriced frames while trying to prevent Babywoods from eating/knocking over all those cardboard cutouts of models wearing eyeglasses reading books while coyly smiling (no one looks like that when they read. I mean please).
Rather, we reclined on the couch one evening (with our ruler), and clicked a few clicks on our keyboard. Of course, I hate shopping and can think of no worse way to use my time, so your opinion on this might vary. But you can’t deny that this is a whole lot faster!
The One Drawback
My only beef with Eye Buy Direct is that they sent Mr. FW his glasses accompanied by soft-side cases. Who uses a soft-side case to hold their glasses?!? Not people who have a toddler and live on a farm, that much I can tell you. And so, we ordered two of these hard-sided cases from Amazon for $7. A small price to pay to ensure his glasses aren’t the victims of drop and smash.
Mr. FW’s Review Of His Glasses
Since he’s the one actually wearing them, I decided to interview my primary source to get his take on the whole situation. Here’s what he had to say:
The major difference between my new glasses and my previous free glasses is that the new ones are much lighter weight and are half rimless, which means the bottom rim doesn’t obstruct my vision. These glasses are more comfortable to wear, they fit my face perfectly, the prescription is correct, and I’m very happy with them. The prescription sunglasses are a revelation. Turns out, it’s really nice to not have to double-glasses it.
Frugality Is All Around Us
Much like mattresses, eyeglasses are one of those things we’re led to believe must be purchased in the hushed, somber offices of overpriced opticians. We’re taught that paying more means better quality. And that–like haircuts–we must have an expert intervene and show us how it’s done. But, just like our mattress and our haircuts, we’ve proven once again that it’s possible to frugalize in unexpected arenas.
Thanks to the internet, creativity, and an ardent desire to never pay full price, Mr. FW and I find ways to circumvent the conventional, spendy path for, well, just about everything. Most stuff, we either find used, for free, or simply do without. For everything else–the things we really and truly must buy new (like eyeglasses)–we do our research, we scan the marketplace, and we find a way to get what we need for a fraction of the price.
Do you wear glasses? What are your tips for saving money on frames?
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