Buying better vision for less

Saving Money on Eyeglasses

by Rich Finzer

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After age 41, I was forced to begin wearing reading glasses. And with roughly 10,000 Americans retiring every day, many of those new retirees will soon become slaves to corrective lenses themselves. Eyeglasses can be expensive to acquire, and depending upon the individual, they may require annual changes to the lens prescription. But having said all this, a crafty shopper can still save money when purchasing spectacles. As my wife has spent the last 25 years working for an eye care company, I went to her for some money-saving tips, and here are her best suggestions.

Understand your vision plan: If your health insurance plan includes a vision care benefit, be certain you understand it clearly. Some plans pay for an annual eye exam and a complete pair of glasses. Other plans only offer this coverage on a biennial basis. Either way, the coverage is for a set period of months, so be sure to use it.

Coupons: The retail eye care business is very competitive, so to attract new customers, most chains offer coupons for an eye exam and one pair of glasses. The tactic is to offer you a package deal and persuade you to upgrade the glasses you select with clear coated lenses or those which darken automatically. As when buying a new car, the dealer makes larger profits selling you optional equipment. If your favorite eyewear chain isn't running a coupon deal, it will most likely honor a competitor's coupon. How large are eyewear coupons? They can be for as much as 25 percent off, so watch the Sunday ads or you might miss out. And missing the ad is a tell-tale sign that you really need glasses.

BOGOF: Just like when buying groceries, vision retailers often run buy one, get one free promotions on eyeglasses. The deal is usually on frames being phased out or very inexpensive ones, but you still end up with a second pair of specs. If you've ever run over your glasses with the lawn mower, or dropped them overboard like I have (both), a second pair of glasses is a godsend.

Back to school: Assuming you can wait until early or mid-summer, every eyeglass retailer runs aggressive back-to-school specials, and they're not only for kids. Leveraging these sales can help you save big, which is particularly important if you don't have a vision plan.

Extra discounts: Let's assume you don't have vision care insurance coverage and nobody is running a sale. You might still be entitled to a discount on your new glasses. The AAA auto club, AARP, and similar organizations have secured eye care discounts with many major eyeglass retailers.

Shop online: A terrific strategy when buying extra pairs of glasses or prescription sunglasses is to shop the web. Discounts on designer eyewear may run as high as 80 percent over what a brick and mortar retailer charges. Many sites offer free shipping, but there are downsides as well. You will need a prescription from a trained, licensed optometrist. Before venturing online, be certain you have a written copy of your current lens prescription. The other negative associated with shopping online is you can't try on a pair of frames to see how they look on you. If you're particular about style, you may want to stay with a brick and mortar location. If you do want to shop online, a great website to begin your search is

Remember that 70 percent of your sensory input is received via your eyes. With a little strategic planning, there's no reason why you can have the best of both worlds with a healthy pair of eyes and significant savings as well.

I only need my glasses when reading, writing, or performing other close work. But, it's still a subtle form of penance associated with growing older. I spend more time trying to remember where I set them down last than I do wearing them!

Reviewed June 2017

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 43 years as a writer, he has published over 1,000 newspaper, magazine, and Internet articles. His first book Maple on Tap is currently available through his publisher ACRES USA. His novel Taking the Tracks is available through

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