How I Got $8 Glasses

When I was growing up, my entire family had glasses, but I did not. I remember when I was asked by my parents if I had trouble seeing anything, I said “yeah things are blurry”. I didn’t understand what they meant, but I knew I wanted to get glasses too. Finally, I was taking to an eye doctor, where they confirmed that I did need glasses. I was so excited! Sadly, since then, wearing glasses has become a bit of a pain.

During my teenage years I would get a new pair of glasses every other year. That was when my parents’ benefits allowed them to purchase new glasses for us, so we would update our prescriptions and get a new pair of frames and glasses. I was always so surprised at how much they cost! We were very limited by our choice of glasses, because there was such a big difference between $159 frames and $219 frames, let alone $289 designer frames! So we were stuck with about a dozen options, half of which obviously sucked and the rest were just “meh”. But that was the only way to get glasses, and I needed glasses to see, so I always put up with it.

A couple of years ago in college, I found out that I needed to get new glasses, yet again. At this point, I was no longer underneath my parental coverage, and as such, could not get them to cover the incredibly expensive cost of a new prescription and new glasses. Even if I got “cheap” frames, at about $150, I’d still have to pay for the lenses, which would double the cost to about $300. That was money I simply didn’t have. Luckily, I had been reading a couple of personal finance websites, and one of them mentioned buying glasses online for cheaper. So I looked at a couple of websites, and wandered around online, cautiously collecting information. I was hesitant for a couple of reasons. First, this was a classic “too good to be true” situation. Why would glasses that regularly cost hundreds of dollars be sold for so much cheaper? Something must not be right. Second, even if they were legitimate, how could I guarantee that they would look good on me without trying them on first?

Despite these hesitations, I decided I would rather invest $40 into a potential scam or a crappy pair of glasses rather than drop $300 for glasses I didn’t really like. So I ordered a pair, and I’ve been wearing them everyday for the last two years. They’re awesome.

Last week my wife and I decided to get some new glasses yet again. She had just updated her prescription, and my two year old glasses had gotten a little dinged up, so I figured I’d just re-order the same ones that I already got. Why not? They were only $40! While looking around at the website, I found another pair that looked interesting, so I ordered them as well. For the frames and the lenses, they were $8. Eight dollars. Not three hundred, not even two hundred. Eight dollars. I got them in the mail yesterday, and the prescription is perfect, and the frames look good.

How to Order Glasses Online

The first thing to do is to figure out what kind of glasses you want. If you’re happy with the pair that you have, then you can stay at home, but if you want to shop around, hit up your local mall and check out what kind of glasses they have. Try on a few pairs, find something you like, and then bust out your measuring tape. When you order glasses online, you can’t try them on, but you can compare them to what you have in hand. So if you find out what looks good on you, you can order a similar shape, and size, and be relatively confident that your new glasses will also look good on you. Measure the lenses width and height, as well as the the width of the bridge. Those three measurements will be the most important. You can also look at the entire frame width, and the length of the temple arms as well. All good online glasses retailers will provide the measurements of their products.

Second, you’re going to need an updated prescription. Sadly, that can’t be outsourced online, so you’re going to have to go to an optometrist. I’ve had excellent luck at our local Costco, but if you have a family eye doctor, or a wonderful local small business, feel free to support them. Make sure that they do more than measure your prescription, as you’ll want to be sure that your eyes are in a healthy condition. Your new prescription will give you all the information you need to order new prescription lenses online. Well, all except one thing. Your pupillary distance.

So the third thing you have to do is figure out what your pupillary distance is. This is the distance between your pupils. It will affect how the lenses fit to your eyes. If the measurement is completely off, then you might experience headaches, and the world you see might not be exactly how it is. But don’t worry, it is very easy to calculate – as long as you have a friend. Get a ruler, and have your friend/spouse/co-worker hold it up in front of your eyes while you stare into the distance. Don’t look at the ruler, and don’t look at your friend. That will bring your eyes closer together. Measure, in millimeters, how far from the center of one pupil to the other. The average is 62mm, but it can range from 50-70+. Mine was 61, my wife’s was 55.

Fourth, go shopping! The website we used was zennioptical.com. If you want more options, the go to resource for online glasses shopping is glassyeyes.blogspot.com. He’s been blogging about buying glasses online for years, and as such, has the best links/resources for shopping for glasses online. Each website has its own positives and negatives. Some provide more information, but are harder to navigate, and others are cheaper, but less user friendly. Find one that you’re comfortable with, and get to ordering!

Fifth, once you found the frames that you like, fill out your lens information using your prescription. It is all pretty straightforward, as you just copy and paste. You’ll also need to input your pupillary distance here as well. Most websites will also offer you additional options. For example, at Zenni Optical you have your choice of tinting the lens, adding an anti reflective coating, or changing the thickness of the lens. If you’re ordering a backup pair of glasses, then don’t bother with any fancy additional options, but once you’re comfortable ordering online, you might consider getting a thinner lens, especially if you have a high prescription. This is the “index” option. The standard seems to be about 1.50, and it gets thinner as the number gets higher (1.61, 1.67, etc). The $8 pair that I got were 1.50, and since I have a high prescription (think -6 in each eye), they are really quite thick. Almost embarrassingly. But my others are 1.61, and they aren’t even noticeable.

Sixth, place your order, and wait! Mine have come in the mail within a week or two. Mine came in their own case, wrapped in a microfiber cloth for cleaning them.

Have you ordered glasses online?

Image by nzgabriel

Written by Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.

17 Responses to How I Got $8 Glasses

  1. I’m going to give this a shot.
    My current glasses are 4 yrs old now and my perscription has changed slightly.

    Good post. Thanks.

  2. Nice post. My wife and I have used http://www.goggles4u.com a couple of times now. I read about them in a Slate article – pairs of single vision are around $25 – 35. So far no real complaints (had the nose pad break off on one pair). These are perfect for sunglasses too.

    I always get a copy of my prescription when I get my eyes tested. I tell them either a) I am going on a trip and want to take a copy or b) I am creating my own personal health record and want copies of everything. No problem getting them.

    I am self-employed so under $100 glasses are a boon to me! I don’t care about having any ‘bling’ or ‘authentic’ D+G frames, etc. Decent pair of glasses is all I require.

    Will check out the links.

  3. This is awesome – after wearing glasses most of my life and researching everything under the sun on the internet I had no idea I could get prescription eyeglasses online. I’ve ordered contact lenses online but have never seen ads for eyeglasses. My daughter needs new frames so I’m going to order her a new pair tonight. Thanks for writing this article!

  4. I’m fortunate in that my eyes require lenses of about the same strength. As a result, I’ve been able to get by with $1 reading glasses for the past 10 years.

    An optometrist once tried to warn me that I could be damaging my eyes. I checked with an ophthalmologist. She checked them, and told me they’d do no harm.

    If my eyes should begin to differ significantly, I guess I’ll have to follow your advice.

  5. Similar story to mine so online eyeglass retailers are a godsend. I shopped around for a little, researching all the different popular websites, bought from most, but I settled on eyebuydirect.com. I found Zenni to be unreliable and their website is old school, Frames Direct to be a little more expensive, and eyebuydirect to be just right. Good selection, good prices, good customer service, and a nice website. Good info in your article, spread the word brotha!

  6. Awesome post… I have been reading about these companies for so long and never taken the leap to try them…. My last glasses outing cost $400 and that was with the store manager feeling sorry for me and giving me a friends and family discount on the lenses….. (I had no glasses and was stuck in USA away from my home in Canada).

  7. I bought two pairs from eyebuydirect.com and haven’t had a problem! Their website was easy to use and I really liked that I could try different glasses on myself before choosing which ones to buy. Prices were very reasonable, the selection was good and I was happy with the service.

    I will be buying from them again!

  8. Wow this is a great practical tip for post secondary students! But I don’t understand how people can sell glassess, especially the lenses, online for so cheap

  9. I just get nervous getting glasses from companies that get all of their product from China. I’ve used 39DollarGlasses.com and just love them. They make their stuff in New York and I got my glasses in just a few days not weeks and the quality was superior!

  10. I bought frames online on ebay for $35 back in 2007. I still have them. Although I ended up getting the lenses at Walmart ($200 including transitions) I haven’t regretted buying these on ebay. They have been great. A similar pair at lenscrafters would have cost me $450. With the savings I was able to afford theatre popcorn!

  11. I have ordered from Zenni before with no problems. Just placed another order. $215 for six pairs of glasses. When they break or get scratched I just recycle them. Will never buy glasses from the optometrists again!

  12. I’ve been buying glasses online for years now, from goggles4u.com & clearlycontacts.ca. I prefer the latter. Clearly Contacts always has a free offer for your first pair, so take advantage as all you have to do is pay $15 for the shipping. I have 13 pairs of glasses matching every outfit in my closet.

    The most important thing about ordering glasses online, and most people’s concern, is that they fit properly. If you already have glasses, look for the numbers written somewhere inside the frame – one number, in the 100s is the distance of the arm – this is important and must remain the same. Second number will be in the 50s – this is the measurement from the arm to the nose, you can stray somewhat away from this by a few mm on either side. Third number will be between 15-20, this is the nose measurement, you should try to keep within 1mm either side, unless your buying glasses with nose pads and then they can be adjusted. Once you know certain numbers will fit, figure the shape that looks best and happy shopping!

  13. I used to buy from clearlycontacts for years, but now it seems like their stuff is getting more expensive so I decided to try some other places. During the last few month I tried http://www.ilookglasses.ca and also the http://www.visionspro.ca mentioned in the other post, both gives me good products and I’m happy with them. The only drawback is that the delivery is definitely not as fast as clearlycontacts, but i don’t mind waiting 2 or 3 more days and able to save 30~40 dollar!

  14. I order glasses online since over 5-6 years by now… first time from clearlycontact, second time from cheapglasses123, then as you did I discovered zennioptical with their 6,95 glasses…. never been disappointed with any of them! I bought glasses for my 4 years old daughter in a store 2 weeks ago and it hurts now to pay 270$ for a single pair of glasses…. I ordered 2 pairs for myself this week from ilookglasses.ca and can’t wait to receive them. I think they have the best choice of designer look-alike frames, and a great selection for “large headed” people like I am… 2 pairs, one with tinted lens…. 108$… a deal :D

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