Are you a lucky single-vision eyeglass wearer with a reasonably simple prescription? The online eyeglass world is your oyster. You can get complete pairs of glasses for $10 and up at all of the websites I link to in this article.
One of the cutest websites I’ve seen is Warby Parker. Everything is $95, all included, AND they give a pair to charity when you buy a pair. They don’t do progressives, though.
Most everyone over a certain age [cough40cough] knows that your eyesight is one of the first things to be affected. I was always farsighted — I needed glasses to work on computers from age 23. Nowadays, because I need help with both distance and close-up vision, I’m stuck in progressives.
Progressives are no-line bifocals. Eyeglasses with three different areas of focus, gently blended so you can’t see the changes as a line on the lens. And they’re expensive.
I have found that, since I’m wearing my glasses all the time now, having sunglasses built in is essential, so I add photochromic Transitions that darken when I’m outside. That’s at least another $100-150.Â My last prescription glasses cost $600.Â We’re not talking about Prada frames here, either. No-name vaguely attractive frames. Most of the cost was the lenses.
I found out about ordering eyeglasses online from this blog, several years ago. Since then, I’ve ordered 4 pair for myself and the hub. Because they are C.H.E.A.P. And I mean that in every sense of the word.
Two pair from Zenni Optical were the best of all my purchases. The frames are made in China and I believe that’s where the lenses and assembly happen as well. Progressives without Transitions cost $50. The frames are the ones I’m wearing in my Twitter pic up on the left there. Heavy, but cute enough. Eye Buy Direct was okay, but mostly what was available for months were ugly frames large enough to accommodate a progressive prescription [you need 27-29mm-tall lenses at minimum, from these online shops]. I hate them, but they work. Hub’s glasses have scratched much more easily than usual [he is admittedly tough on his eyewear], but they haven’t broken. I guess that’s something.
None of these cheap glasses had the area of vision that the in-person optical stores can provide. But to save $500, I sucked it up.
I went back to my Optometrist last week and found my Rx had changed again, and this time, I was determined to do it affordably but smartly. I went to some optical shops in town, and found nothing I liked. Or if I liked it, it was exhorbitantly priced…$500 for frames? Really? So I returned to my online searching.
Hoping for the possibility of a brand-name frame, I ended up at Clearly Contacts, which does sell eyeglasses. All their frames were $38, on sale, and their Â progressive lenses were much more affordable than anywhere else. I scored two pair — one progressive/transitions, and one single vision for computer use — for $198, all in. They also have a return guarantee, which I’ll gladly take. Not all online companies do.
Here are my tips for finding the best fitting, best looking eyeglasses possible:
– find out what shapes fit your face best. don’t just pick them because they’re cute on the screen. places like EyeBuy and ClearlyContacts have a try-on tool. use it. I did, and found that the frames I’d thought I was going to choose were way too small for my face, BEFORE I ordered them. [follow-up note: the tool isn’t error free. use the next tip as your ultimate guideline…]
– measure your favorite current glasses and match the new frames to those measurements. it’s easy to buy something too wide for your face, or too narrow, without having hard numbers to refer to
– look for extras like spring hinges and adjustable nose pads for comfort
– some sites include the weight of the frame. when you can’t try it on in person, it’s good to know how heavy it is before you buy it. use your current frame as reference and weigh it to know what feels okay on your face
– some sites make their money with what they call extras: UV protection, anti-glare and anti-scratch. try to find a site that doesn’t gouge for these necessities.
I wish I could afford to go to my local optician to buy my glasses, but I just can’t. It’s nice that I now have some reasonably affordable online alternatives.
Follow up [March 12/11]: Of the two pairs ordered from Clearly Contacts, my dedicated computer glasses were absolutely perfect right out of the box. The other pair was much too large for my face and went back — Clearly Contacts paid for the return shipping, btw. An order mixup [their error] meant the subsequent replacements came with the wrong pd. Again, they paid for shipping BOTH WAYS and are fixing the error at no cost to me.
After having dealt with Eye Buy Direct, Zenni Optical and now Clearly Contacts, the only one I’d recommend is Clearly Contacts[a Canadian Company; the US equivalent is Coastal Contacts], and they’re the only company I’ll use from now on. The quality of their lenses is much higher than either of the other two companies I’ve tried, especially the progressives. They also offer brand-name frames that feel more solid and durable, and are more comfortable to wear. And their customer service is polite and efficient. Yup, you can consider this an unsolicited endorsement.