The Clear Picture on Eyewear

By Debra L. Karplus

Your eyeglasses are so scratched that you can barely see through them anymore and the frames have some chips in them and just don’t fit right. You’ve been procrastinating, but it’s probably about time to buy a new pair of glasses. You call the place where you bought your current glasses and they remind you that they cannot simply replace them with another pair, as it’s been more than a year, way more than a year, since your last eye exam. What to do.

Who is covering your eyes?

If you have medical problems with your eyes, you may choose an ophthalmologist, who is a medical doctor specializing in eyes, rather than a licensed optician, the professional who you will find in freestanding eyewear shops and also those vision centers inside some of the large discount stores. An optician at these places will typically test you for glaucoma and cataracts in addition to the routine near vision, far vision, peripheral vision, and astigmatism, with all those teeny tiny alphabet letters on the wall chart.

Before you make an appointment, carefully scrutinize your health insurance plan and see if a vision exam and/or eyeglasses or contact lenses are covered by your policy. Perhaps you have a membership in a large organization such as AARP (aarp.org) or American Automobile Association (aaa.com); expect a thirty percent discount from selected retailers. Seniors can expect substantial savings at many of the optical centers,
especially the large more well-known shops.

Try to see the prices clearly.

You may feel as if you need to have a PhD in advanced mathematics to sort out the mumbo jumbo of buying eyewear. Sometimes it may be cheaper to have the exam done by an optician and purchase the glasses or contact lenses elsewhere. One gentleman was a bit bewildered at the local vision center when he learned that an exam and one pair of glasses would cost him two hundred dollars, but the same exam and two pairs would cost $170 at the same place. (No it’s not your poor vision; truly that discount makes absolutely no sense!) Of course he bought two pairs even though he only wanted one.

You will also be offered umpteen options when purchasing glasses such as tinted, scratch resistant, and extended warranties. Don’t let yourself get talked into any features you don’t really desire unless they are desirable features that are cost effective. Remember that you’re paying for the frame and lens combination. And you can be certain that single vision lenses will always be cheaper.

Visualize other ways to save on eyewear.

One woman who had worn glasses for nearly forty years walked into the optical shop at the mall. By mistake, she started looking at children’s frames. She was amazed that these frames were much less expensive than comparable ones for adults, and appeared to be more durable, also. Curious, this petite lady tried on some of the kid’s frames (no, not the one’s with Mickey Mouse or Barbie) and discovered that they were an excellent fit for her small face in both function and appearance, so that’s what she chose. Those frames, by the way, lasted much longer than any glasses that she had purchased in the past.

See what’s available online in eyewear.

You probably already buy air tickets, books, gifts, and many other items online. It’s easy and often cheaper than going to a local store in your town. But if it’s been awhile since you’ve bought glasses or contact lenses, you may be surprised and pleased to learn that once you’ve had the eye exam, you can order frames and lenses on the Internet from a variety of reputable web sites that have rave reviews from numerous satisfied customers. One site sells frames for as low as $6.95 and comes with a generous warranty.

The financial side of eye care can be overwhelming. There are so many choices to sort through. And don’t forget about the tax implications. Since you don’t often buy eyewear or even have the exam, although it is recommended to be performed annually, you may have forgotten than your out-of-pocket expenses for the exam and glasses or contacts are a tax deductible medical expense on the Schedule A of your federal income tax.
Eyewear has become big business, and it, like other industries, has become extremely competitive. Designer eyewear has created its own market niche. When it’s time to replace your current eyewear, look online to see what optical places are near you and start making some calls.

This article by Debra Karplus first appeared on Debra Karplus, freelance writer and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.