Eye exams and prescription eyeglasses can be pricey, and eye care might not be included in your insurance benefits package. But the health of your eyes is just as important as dental and other other medical procedures. Here are a few ways to save money on exams and eye wear, both glasses and contact lenses:
Do your research. Make a list of eye doctors in your area, and call for prices on exams. Ask what is included in the base price. Smaller, local businesses might be more open to negotiating a deal than national chains. Do you need every procedure? Maybe not. Find out what your insurance plan covers and discuss your needs with the eye doctor, eliminating any unnecessary tests.
Look for special eye exam programs. You may qualify for a special eye exam program that offers low or no-cost eye exams. For instance, Infant See is a public program managed by the AOA Foundation that helps to ensure early infant eye care. Optometrists that participate in the program provide infant eye assessments for babies between 6 and 12 months of age as a free public service. Vision USA. Call your local social service agency to apply. If you are over 65 years of age, you may qualify for EyeCare America Seniors which connects seniors to participating optometrists who offer no-cost exams. VSP Global’s Sight for Students program provides free eye exams and glasses to eligible low-income and uninsured children 18 years and younger.
Search for eye wear programs. New Eyes for the Needy provides qualifying individuals with a basic pair of single or lined bifocals. The program is for those who have no other resources from which to obtain prescription eye wear. Applicants must have a current exam including pupilary distance (PD) measurement. Lions Clubs still collect eyeglass frames for people who need support with their vision. To see if you qualify for assistance, contact your local Lions Club.
Look for coupons or package deals. We found several centers that offered free or low-cost eye exams if you buy eye wear in their store. Some offer packages with credits toward store inventory. This could work in your favor if you shop carefully among discounted or clearance frames. I used one of these types of deals several years ago, finding a clearance pair of frames, originally tagged for $325 for $115 after getting an eye exam for $49 as part of a package discount.
Go online. Unless your prescription is really complicated, you can save money by ordering online. After losing a pair of expensive frames, I purchased a pair of eyeglasses online when I returned home. I paid a total of $15 for lenses and frames. Of course, they weren’t the same quality frames, but I’m still wearing them. Beware the online purchasing pitfalls – you are fitting your glasses to a photo of yourself, which isn’t ideal. You might not like the real thing. Make sure the online store has a good return policy.
Keep your old frames. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. If you still love your old frames, simply fit them with new lenses. Or consider honoring a beloved parent by making having their old and beautifully classic frames fit with your prescription lenses.
Compromise. If you like a pair of frames but don’t love the price, look for less expensive frames in the same style and color. Sometimes you can find something very close to the high-priced frames for less.
Buy in bulk. Calculate how many pairs of contacts you will use for the year, or until your next eye exam. Order in bulk and save money by combining with special online discounts or coupon codes.
Join the Club. Some vision centers have a membership club where you are offered discounts and savings on eye wear throughout the year. This type of membership might offer real savings, especially if you are buying daily contacts. Drugstores may have significant discounts on contacts if you apply for a membership card.
Buy in bulk stores. Costco was ranked number one reader’s favorite eyeglass retailer by Consumer Reports in 2016. Other bulk warehouses like BJ’s also have optical centers, and you don’t have to be a member to use their services. Tell the doorkeepers that you are going to the vision center, and you will be waved through.
Drop the contacts. Do you really need contacts? If not, embrace the frames. Your overall maintenance costs go down. And you really do look great in glasses.
More ways to save: