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Glasses... another expense

Glasses always seem to come as an unwanted expense. They are expensive; particularly considering the dismal or non-existent vision insurance most of us carry. Certainly spending $400 on glasses is nothing new.
The paradigm for purchasing prescription eye wear has changed. There are many options and the potential to save hundreds. Where there used to be a few places in town that sold glasses for about the same price, today, there are dozens of websites selling prescription glasses for about 1/4 of what anything costs at Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, or even Target and Sam's Club.
Of course, you should still start with an eye exam. Most insurance plans cover one eye-exam per year and the FTC requires that your optometrist provides you with your prescription at the end of the exam. It is worth mentioning that you need your prescription when making your appointment. If the person on the other end of the line gives you attitude, consider finding a different optometrist. When you get your prescription, specifically ask them to measure you pupillary distance (PD) -- because this number never changes, occasionally optometrists won't include it on the prescription.
Once you have your prescription, you have three choices:
1) Purchase brand-name eyeglasses at your eye doctor, taking advantage of any insurance benefits you may have. Typical configurations tend to run $300-$600, depending on your frame choice and lens options.
2) Purchase identical brand-name eyeglasses at one of the designer shops online. These places have every make and model you'll find at almost any optometrist. The frames tend to cost about 30% less; the lenses tend to cost about 65% less. I configured an identical pair at Pearle Vision and a couple of designer shops online. What was $500 at Pearle Vision was $260 online for the exact same product.
3) Purchase generic eyeglasses online. There are now dozens of players in this market at quality varies, but is typically higher than you would expect. Complete glasses - frames, lenses, everything - can be had readily for $50 or less. Most buyers tend to upgrade a few things and spend around $80. Other buyers keep things cheap, particularly if the glasses are for accident-prone children.
No matter which route you choose, understand that you have options. In your mind, separate the process of having your eyes checked with the process of purchasing glasses. A lot has changed in the world of prescription eye wear - and nearly all of these changes are great for the informed consumer.
Guest post by Adam Zekmueller, who writes a blog about glasses.


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