With glasses, many of us are one-stop shoppers. We go to a single store, such as LensCrafters to get our eye exam, lenses and frames. These retailers often offer affordable eye exams, but they make a killing on marked-up frames and unnecessary high-tech lens options.
You'd be far better off buying lenses online and foregoing all the bells and whistles. You now can find everything from designer eyewear to bargain basement frames on the Web, and they'll cost you far less than you'd typically pay at a one-stop shop.
The sacrifice you make when you buy frames online is that you can't try them on, but there are ways around this problem. Eyeglasses.com and FramesDirect.com allow you to "virtually" try on frames by uploading a picture of yourself.
If you prefer the hands-on experience, try treating your local eyeglass store as a fitting room. Go in and try on various frame shapes. When you find one you like, write down the make and serial number and look for bargains online.
Most vision prescriptions can also be filled on the Web at a reduced cost. When you're choosing lenses, CR-39s offer the best bargain, says Consumer Reports. But they are less shatter-resistant than some of the more expensive lenses and can get thick when you have a strong prescription. Polycarbonate or high-index lenses are also a good choice because they come with scratch-resistant coating and UV protection built in.
If you're in a hurry, or this all sounds like too much work, try the optical department at your local Sam's Club or BJs, both of which offer all-in-one eye care at lower costs. Better yet, get a Costco membership; Costco is now the fifth-largest seller of eyewear in the U.S. and has a huge selection of styles.
If you've shopped around and still can't afford new glasses, you might want to try for aid from two nonprofit organizations, Sight for Students and New Eyes for The Needy.
By Marshall Loeb