There was a time when I only paid full price for prescription glasses. Because they tend to be so expensive, I would only buy a new pair when my prescription changed or I absolutely needed them. Even with part of the cost covered by insurance, I would find myself paying upwards of $200 for frames.

Then I discovered how much cheaper and easier it is to purchase glasses online! Initially, I was worried about ordering a pair of eyeglasses before I could try them on. But many sites offer virtual try-on and have excellent return policies. Here's how to get started buying glasses online so you can save hundreds of dollars on prescription eyeglasses for you and your family.

Get a Hold of Your Most Recent Prescription

Few eye doctors will give you your prescription unless you ask (remember, they want you to buy their frames!) Be sure to specify that you need your eyeglasses prescription, as your contacts prescription may be different. Most prescriptions expire within 12 to 24 months, so if you haven’t had your eyes checked recently, look for discounted eye exams in the Sunday inserts. Visionworks frequently offers exams for less than $50. Big box stores such as Walmart, Costco, and Target also offer eye exams at a reasonable price.

Try on Frames at Your Eye Doctor

The best thing about trying on glasses is you don't have to restrict yourself to a certain price limit! Try different styles, colors, and brands to get a feel for what you like and what looks the best with your face structure. If you find a pair you especially like, remember the brand name and, if you can, find out the style number. You can try typing it into Google when you're home, and you might be able to find the exact frames for a much lower price.

Measure Your Pupillary Distance

You'll need this to order glasses online. Your pupillary distance, or PD, is the distance in millimeters between your pupils. If your prescription does not include this measurement, have a friend hold a ruler between your eyes and count the millimeters between each pupil. Measure your PD a few times and take the average. This video from Coastal Contacts outlines how to find an accurate measurement.

Scope Out the Online Retailers

Several sites sell discounted frames. Spend time comparing frames. Read the reviews to see if other customers were pleased with their purchases. Here are my three favorite sites for buying glasses:

  • I like Coastal for their large selection of name-brand glasses and their 365 day return policy. Full-price frames run $58-88, but Coastal frequently runs promotions so you can save even more. I've even received one free pair of frames — you can too with their current promotion. Just enter FIRSTPAIRFREE at checkout! I like to have several pairs of glasses to match different outfits and occasions, so I keep a close eye on the other promotions by following on Facebook. To save even more on future orders, Coastal will give you a referral link to share with friends and family. If your referral results in a purchase, you'll receive $20 credit.
  • Warby Parker: I like Warby Parker because they will send you five free trial pairs to try on! They pay the postage both ways, so it's truly free to try on the frames in the comfort of your own home. And I especially like their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program; for every pair of glasses Warber Parker sells, they will provide a pair to someone in need. All men's and women's frames are vintage inspired and cost $95, including free shipping and 30 day returns.
  • Zenni Optical: Zenni Optical has the lowest prices I've seen anywhere for prescription glasses. Some frames are as cheap at $6.95! Zenni is a great option if you are nervous about ordering glasses online, because you can order a few different pairs and still won't break your budget. Zenni also offers virtual try-on and a 30-day return policy. Although Zenni does not repair eyeglasses or provide replacement lenses, they will provide tools for you to repair your frames yourself. And if your glasses break, you can order replacement frames for half price

This has been a guest post by Betsy from Chicago, IL
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