There are always ways to save money, even when it comes to prescription eyeglasses. More than 150 million Americans wear eyeglasses and/or contacts and some aren’t paying full price for their specs.
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Vision insurance plans can help defray some of the costs associated with prescription eyeglasses, but it’s not going to cover it all. Because of that, you have to look for additional ways to save.
It turns out one of the best ways to yield savings is the one that many consumers resist: shopping online. When it comes to eyeglasses it’s something most people want to try on before purchasing. But if you are willing to embrace some unconventional methods of seeing how the glasses look, you can end up saving double digits.
“If you look online versus what you might pay through a retail store you can save anywhere from 20% to 50%,” says Kevin Merker, founder of GlassesEtc.com, the online eyeglass store. “The Internet is lower because the costs are lower.”
That may not always be the case, since according to Glenda Secor, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Optometry, some manufacturers have started a uniform pricing policy for materials similar to what Apple has done to control prices of computers and devices, but for now shopping online is going to cost you less than going to a retail store or eye doctor.
To overcome the inability to try on glasses, online retailers are taking different approaches. For instance at GlassesEtc.com, consumers can order up to three pairs of glasses (with free shipping included). If you decide you like a pair(s) and wish to return them to have prescription lenses added, GlassesEtc.com will waive all restocking fees and email you a free return shipping label and will then install the prescription lenses and return them to you completed. Decide you don’t like any of them and GlassesEtc.com charges you a $7.95 fee per returned item.
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Meanwhile Zenni Optical www.zennioptical.com, the online retailer, lets you upload a picture of your face and see digitally how different glasses look. Another option is to try the glasses on at a store and then purchase them over the Internet. “The typical retail markup is about 400%,” says Hernan Vicuña, Brand Manager for Zenni Optical. “There’s more options than just going to the retail store.”
For people who don’t want to use the Internet to purchase their glasses they can utilize it to find discounts or rebates. According to Secor of the American Academy of Optometry contact lens manufacturers in particular offer discounts and rebates for all sorts of reasons. For instance ordering a new type of lens can get you money off. Same as buying a year’s supply of contacts, which will often result in a lower price than if you buy just one pack. Tying your purchase of contacts or glasses with non-prescription sunglasses or a second pair of frames can also increase the amount you’ll save.
For many eyeglass wearers the type of frame matters as much as actually seeing out of their specs. People spend hundreds to get the latest pair of designer lenses, not realizing they can get the same quality at half the cost if they looked beyond name brands. Zenni Optical was founded eleven years ago with the idea of making affordable eyeglasses that are also attractive. Today the company has around $70 million in sales and sells its eyeglasses for around $6.99 a pair. “With a lot of the big brands you are paying the branding and marketing costs,” says Hernan.
Regardless of where you decide to purchase your glasses one savings tip that everyone can apply is timing when you buy your new glasses. Just like purveyors of other products, eyeglass manufactures and stores will offer sales at different times of the year. For instance Merker of GlassesEtc.com says there are lot of deals during the holiday season and around back-to-school time. Vicuña says Veterans Day, Fourth of July and Black Friday are other times of the year when consumers can see deals on glasses. “Shopping around is one of the best ways to save,” says Vicuña.