Updated on 05.10.07

The Simple Dollar’s Guide To Eyeglasses

Trent Hamm

glassesI’ve worn eyeglasses since I was two years old, and while I was growing up, my eyeglasses were a pretty significant expense. Although my ophthalmologist visits were covered by insurance, my glasses themselves were not, so quite often my parents would ask the doctor whether I could “stretch” using the same glasses for another year, and often he would give a little nod to them.

This meant two things. First, the actual process of selecting eyeglasses was an exercise in finding a good deal, and second, we used lots of little tricks to keep them repaired and in good, usable shape. Here are some of the tricks I learned from this experience, most of which I still use today to get cheap glasses and keep them over the long term.

Buying Glasses
The actual purchase process for glasses, for most people, involves visiting an eyeglass store, getting a “free” test from an optometrist, and then buying their expensive glasses. Not me.

First, I get a full eye exam from an ophthalmologist, paid for by my insurance. An ophthalmologist is significantly better trained than an optometrist and regular visits to one are often covered by medical insurance (obviously, check your own policy).

Then I go to my local LensCrafters to try on frames if I need new ones. I don’t buy them there, just try them on. I usually say I’m shopping around. If I find one I really like, I write down all the information on it that I can find and then leave the store.

After that, I do some comparison shopping, usually comparing Sam’s Club and online prices. I can often save 75% off of the prices at LensCrafters and other eyeglass stores by doing this. If you can specify the frames that you want and have your prescription for lenses, it’s just as easy as getting them at an eyeglass shop.

If I just need to replace the lenses, I tend to go through the same comparison shopping process. Then, I go to a local eyeglass store and they will often size the lenses for me for a small fee while I wait. Not all stores will do this, but many will.

Maintaining Glasses
Maintaining glasses isn’t too hard, either. Just remember that you don’t need to replace the frames and lenses every year (I know people who do this almost automatically) and that with a bit of effort, frames can last for many years and lenses can last for several years, too, if you don’t face a prescription change. Here are some tips for maintenance.

Wash them regularly I wash mine every other day or so in warm, soapy water, then dry them with a soft cloth. This keeps the lenses quite clean and thus reduces the chances for scratching. Don’t use anything scratchy to dry the lenses – avoid paper towel drying like the plague.

If they get scratched… Try polishing the scratch with some eyeglass polish. You can usually find a can of this for $8 to $10 at the eyeglass store – ask for help before buying because some brands don’t work well on glasses with various coatings on the lens. This is far, far cheaper than replacing your lens, because a can of polish should be able to last for years.

You can try baby oil as well – this often removes small scratches on lenses. Just buff it off with a very soft cloth. I have heard of other solutions, but they all work only on specific lens types.

If the frame gets broken… Superglue is often your best friend for longer pieces that are broken in the middle.

If a screw gets loose… Screw it back into place, then apply a drop of nail polish to the top of the screw. That’ll hold it right where it should be.

These tips handle almost everything I’ve faced with my eyeglasses through my life, and it’s saved me from buying new frames or new lenses several times.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Jamie says:


    I haven’t been able to order from them yet, but they usually list some really good prices…

  2. david says:

    Might want to check out http://www.eyeglassesdirect.com as well, incredibly cheap and my friend loves the glasses he got from there.

  3. Louise says:

    This page and the blog it links to are great resources for low cost frames. Another idea is to check out reading glasses. I managed to get some awesome designer frames for under $100 with lifetime warranty against breakage because they were marketed as [grossly overpriced] reading glasses.

  4. HardwareGuy says:

    This guy goes through how he ordered cheap eyeglasses over the internet and saved a bundle.


  5. Louise says:

    What happened to my comment? It was here two hours ago.

  6. kim says:

    I have an inexpensive pair of glasses. They have given me only one problem. I had a screw that was always coming loose – even with the nail polish. I was ready to trade them in for a new pair. As a last ditch effort, I went to a small locally owned optical shop for advice. The man there replaced the screw with a longer one and attached a teeny tiny nut to the end. Problem solved – for free!

  7. chris says:

    How crazy, I just got my eyes checked today (nationwide vision). I pay a 100.00 a year for vision insurance through work and today I got an eye check up for $9 bucks and to top this, I also got a FREE pair of NEW glasses, my insurance paid up to 120, and I paid NOTHING. Awesome. These are just back up but free can not be beat.

    Thanks Trent, you are becoming a reading habit by the day. BTW, I just got Getting Things Done on CD from our library. I am excited about listening to it.


  8. ceej says:

    I’d been wearing glasses for about 25 years, so I got Lasik 2 years ago. It was costly, but between contacts, exams, glasses, frames, etc, my eye surgery will pay for itself in savings in another year. Do the math: it may end up saving you about $800/year, like I did.

  9. Lissa says:

    I’m surprised that YOU, of all people, haven’t investigated purchasing eyeglasses online. I stepped up to bifocals this year during my routine exam, and my son had to have bifocals as well (congenital eye problems).

    Because the in-store price for just the lenses on mine was $210, I started looking on the net and found http://www.zennioptical.com. I read tons of reviews and most said the glasses were fine, so long as you were very careful when ordering because the customer service after the sale isn’t great.

    I took the chance and purchased 3 pair of glasses (1 progressive bifocal, 1 line bifocal and one for reading) for $134 total! I figure my savings at about $500 for the three pair of glasses I had to purchase.

    I have been wearing my glasses for about 3 months now and have no complaints at all with them.

  10. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    I do buy glasses online, but usually in parts. I do price comparisons with Sam’s Club first, though, because Sam’s Club sometimes comes up with great deals on frames.

  11. Rich Minx says:

    Good advice, thanks. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was four. I considered forking out for laser eye surgery just to be done with it but apparently my eyes weren’t compatible with the procedure, so back to the glasses it is…

  12. Marta says:

    How timely! I just got my eyes checked today. I love the nail polish tip – I’ve had many loose screws so hopefully I’ll remember that the next time it happens. Thanks!

  13. surprised says:

    I have been reading your site for about a month now and to this point have found it rather informative and interesting.

    However, I do have to comment on this post about eyeglasses. You recommend that your readers only go to ophthalmologists for glasses because “an ophthalmologist is significantly better trained than an optometrist”

    I am an optometrist who has all the respect in the world for the training of an ophthalmologist. I just think you should think about the focus of their training: DISEASE. They are eye surgeons.

    I’ll stop there. Think about it.

  14. lorax says:

    Yeah, laser surgery isn’t for everyone. From what I’ve heard a significant number of patients come back with double vision or halo vision at night. I couldn’t find it straight off, but IIRC it is 1 out of 10, with something like half of those correctable with a second session.

    There’s a risk/reward tradeoff here.

    Besides, glasses can protect your eyes from branches while you are poking though the woods looking for mushrooms. :)

  15. well trained, thank you says:

    “An ophthalmologist is significantly better trained than an optometrist”
    Opthalmologists spend a majority of their training in treatment of eye disease, including surgery. Optometrists spend significantly more time than ophthalmologists in their training in diagnosing refractive (think glasses Rx) conditions.

  16. Game says:

    Will the online glass stores bill my insurance? Is insurance a hassle compared to buying from my doc?
    And, um, you know Sam’s club is a walmart venture right?

  17. Melissa says:

    I usually wear contact lenses except at night because my eye doctor says it’s best to give your eyes a break from the contacts. I have to wear the monthly contacts because of protein buildup. It has occurred to me that it would definitely be cheaper to just wear my glasses all the time – – instead of contacts. My only problem with that is that I don’t like wearing glasses. And because I live in Florida, I’d have to also buy prescription sunglasses. The real question here is how much I’m willing to sacrifice to save money????

  18. GR says:

    One point: Ophthalmologists are actually significantly less trained than optometrists when it comes to matters of glasses, contacts, etc. Training in ophthalmology tends to focus more on surgery, whereas optometry focuses on refraction (glasses).

  19. I purchased rimless glasses from Zennia optical
    co.I did find the price attractive.
    Now,a problem as accured,One of the lenses
    broke at the nose hook.
    Ichecked with Zennia,they don’t replace lenses,
    so what are my options.

  20. Kelly Bergstrom says:

    There may be no option but to buy another pair. However, I think it’s still worth it. My husband had to buy new glasses last year. No designer frames, just a sturdy good looking frame with progressive no-line bifocal lenses. Cost was almost $600.00/pair. I just heard the same story from someone at work. So I ordered my glasses from Zenni. I bought 2 pairs-rimless clear and plastic frame sunglasses-both with progressive lenses. Total cost-135.00 for BOTH pairs. I’d have to buy 9 pairs/year to equal the cost from my local optical shop. I’ve also purchased glasses in the past from Vision World-which were of lesser quality than the glasses I ordered from Zenni. Do look around though, there are several other on-line retailers. One I’m also considering ordering from is 39dollarglasses.com. They have some awesome looking frames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *