Episode 33: April 8, 2010
by Linsey Knerl
April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month, although we know many guys will also be shopping for a good deal on glasses or contact lenses this spring! How can you get the best deal on eyeglasses and contacts without compromising quality? We’ll share a few tips we’ve picked up over the last 20 years of wearing corrective lenses.
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How to Save Money on Eyeglasses and Contacts
Does your health insurance cover eyeglasses? Exams? Neither? We’re surprised at how many people don’t know the answers to these questions, and yet, if you aren’t in the know, you could be throwing money away. Several employer-provided health plans offer these types of benefits--either in full or at a discount. Look over your plan carefully to see if you could recover some costs in the future, and don’t forget about any coverage you may have under state or federal plans like Medicaid or Medicare. They often cover these expenses, too!
Use Your HSA and FSA
If you’ve been socking money away under a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account in the hopes of saving on your tax bill, you can use this money for eye health. Many people find that they have money left at the end of the year that they don’t know what to do with; an extra pair of eyeglasses could really come in handy for using up extra FSA dollars, and they are also eligible for purchase with HSA funds!
Save Money by Ordering Eyeglasses and Contacts Online
Once you have a valid eyewear prescription, there is nothing tying you down to any particular eyeglass or contact lens retailer. By going online, you can usually get your contact lenses for 10-40% off the in-store price, although you’ll get the biggest discount by buying six months or more at a time. For glasses, I’ve found that getting a high-quality brand-name pair in the clinic and a cheaper “disposable” pair online gives me the right balance between functionality and affordability. 39dollarglasses.com, for instance, prices their lenses and frames at a low $40 or less for their most basic pairs, and they frequently offer $10 or %-off discounts to bring the price even lower. Keep in mind that you’ll be ordering without the assistance of a professional, meaning that your measurements for frame size will have to come from you alone. (For a mere $40, however, it’s a chance that many are willing to take.)
Look for Free Repair and Replacement Plans
Many large retail chains offer excellent coverage options for the repair or replacement of eyeglasses. Walmart, for example, not only gives you a decent deal to begin with on the glasses and exam ($39 for children’s frames and lenses), but they will replace kids’ damaged glasses free of charge for up to one year after the purchase date. Similar offers are available for various retail chains, and even independent clinics give a certain number of free adjustments, repairs, and replacements for a small fee or no additional charge. Ask around to get the best deal for your needs and your geographic location.
Become a Mystery Shopper
Mystery shopping is a cheap and legitimate way to get a good pair of glasses from a major retail chain.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a seasoned mystery shopper, it’s that eyeglass shops are common in the industry. Though the companies that offer mystery-shopping jobs change regularly, mystery shoppers who are open to shopping at various times of the day and week may find themselves in a position to get a great deal on eyeglasses--and the exam may also be included! The shop itself will require that you make an appointment and have an exam or fill a prescription just like a regular customer. The downside is that reimbursement for your expenses may take up to 3 months (keep in mind that few shop assignments will cover 100%). But if you’re without vision coverage or need another pair of frames this year, mystery shopping is a cheap and legitimate way to get a good pair of glasses from a major retail chain. To see a list of mystery shopping jobs in your area, visit JobSlinger.com or Volition.com (and remember that a legitimate company will NOT ask for money to be offered jobs.)
Sometimes it pays to be an informed consumer. That’s why we love GlassyEyes.blogspot.com--a blog dedicated to the pursuit of getting discount glasses that look and fit great for far less than retail prices. The blog follows an eyeglass shopper as he visits various companies in search of the best deals. Discount codes for online shops are provided, as is commentary on what the big eyeglass chains are doing to help keep costs down. It’s the Consumer Reports of eyewear, and we can’t live without it!
Perform a Last-Resort Repair Hack
Though we won’t recommend that you do this with a new pair of glasses, sometimes you just need to be able to get by with what you have. Wise Bread recently offered a clever solution to getting a little bit of life out of an already-worn pair of glasses. If your lenses have been treated with an anti-scratch coating, you can use Armor Etch to give them some additional use:
According to the website, “Many reviewers have suggested using Armour Etch to remove glasses' antiglare coating, and thus, the scratches. Note that this ONLY applies to plastic/polycarbonate lenses in general — do NOT use it on actual glass glasses, because it'll "frost" and RUIN them. I also recommend not [trying that] if you only possess one pair of glasses... have a backup! After weighing our options: ~US$50 for a new pair of glasses vs. $10 for a small (3 oz.) bottle of Armour Etch, we opted to use the latter for an experiment.” For the full details on how to do this step-by-step, see the Wise Bread website.
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