How to Save Money on Contacts and Eye Care

Saving Money on Eye Care

Eye care is one of those expenses that many people forget about (unless you’ve been having vision issues since you were young).

Many people find out in school that they have trouble seeing, but even if vision isn’t the problem, you should still get your eyes checked out from time to time to make sure you don’t have any types of eye diseases. However, out of pocket eye care can be expensive, so here are some simple ways to save money on eye care.

Get a Vision Service Plan

The first way you can save money on your eye care is to get a vision service plan, which is essentially eye care insurance. Some companies offer Vision Service Plans (VSPs) through their regular benefit channels, but many do not. You can also buy VSPs on the open market; if this is the option you end up taking, be sure to shop rates between a few different insurance providers.

A VSP can save you a lot of money because, for a small monthly premium, you typically get a free annual exam, as well as discounts on special services and prescriptions.

Find Discounts on Contact or Glasses Prescriptions

The next way to save is to try and find the cheapest prescriptions you can find.

For eye care, this means getting discounts on glasses, frames, and contacts. Many first time eye care patients don’t realize that they have to pay for both the frames, and then the glasses that go in them. Frames themselves can be extremely expensive! I think we paid around $400 a few years back for my wife’s frames and lenses!

The same goes for contact lenses. Many doctors give away a free pair of contacts with your annual exam, but you will still need to go buy your full year’s prescription. A great way to find cheap contact prescriptions is to use a service like 1800Contacts. All you need to do is put in your doctor’s information, and 1800Contacts will get your prescription information and mail your contacts to your door.

Check Your Local Big Box Store

Finally, you should check out your local big box store, like Target, Wal-Mart, or Costco. All of these retailers have optical centers where you can get prescriptions filled just like a regular pharmacy.

Many also offer basic eye and contact exams. Like most products they sell, these exams can be well priced, so you can save money versus going to a traditional eye doctor. Many also offer savings on getting prescriptions filled, and some even offer rewards programs like in their regular stores.

If you wear glasses or contacts, how much do you spend on an annual basis? We spend about $200 and that’s only because my wife doesn’t wear her contacts every day.

About the Author

By , on Sep 18, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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{25 Comments}

  1. I’m not sure how I missed this the other day. It surprised me how many vision related posts there are. I guess I’ll have to do one of my own at some point. Some good points above, but to add:

    If you do have VSP, make sure you use it each year. Most people pay around $10-$12 a month for coverage and usually have a $10-$25 copay on exams. If you only get an exam, you might break even in some places, but it is often cheaper to pay out of pocket if you don’t need products. If you pay for VSP and only get an exam every two or three years, you’re losing money. If you do need glasses or contact, use the benefits. It drives me nuts when someone who has frame coverage every year, uses their same frame for 10 years. You don’t get that frame allowance back and you can’t apply it toward lenses, so it’s like throwing $120 away each year. Unless the coverage is free at work, don’t sign up if you aren’t getting annual exams.

    I have worked for WalMart and I know their system. Just like anywhere else, there are really good doctors that work there and really bad ones, but Walmart does like to keep the patients pumping through, so just keep in mind that you need a good health check where ever you go that includes dilation if needed .You should not have to pay extra for dilation. If you needed a physical, would you look for the cheapest doctor? Remember that with your eyes.

    While I realize they are an advertiser, 1800 contacts is not always the cheapest way to get contacts. Many of their lenses are more expensive that what we charge at our private office, so don’t assume they are giving you the best deal. It may also be better for some people’s eyes not to wear the cheapest brand. Newer lenses breathe much better and are much healthier for your eyes, and they aren’t terribly expensive, around $200 per year. Wearing older technology contacts is like using a 1990 cell phone. And ALWAYS get a year supply. You almost always get a discount or rebate if you do. Many private offices will also give you free solution if you buy a year’s worth of lenses. You can also haggle. Ask them if you buy lenses from them, will they give you a free frame or free solution. Many will say yes.

    The cheapest glasses may also not be the best thing if you do lots of computer work. If you need a bifocal, lined ones are cheap but don’t work at all on the computer. Too much computer work can also make you nearsighted, so if you feel that things are blurry when you look up from your computer out into the distance, you probably need to get your eyes checked. Computer glasses make online work less stressful for your eyes and can save your distance vision. They are usually pretty affordable also.

  2. Andy Hough says:

    I still have 20/20 vision so I don’t have to spend anything on glasses or contacts. I hope that stays the same, but it probably won’t.

  3. Thankfully, my good buddy is an optometrist and gives me endless free stuff. For instance, I haven’t purchased contact lens solution in 5 years because of it.

    Its not what you know, but who you know that matters – :)

  4. We do have vision benefits, but haven’t used them. My wife does use reading glasses, but I do not use glasses at all.

    We should at least get our annual vision check, but it just hasn’t been a problem yet.

  5. I don’t wear glasses but my wife does. She goes for an annual check up but her prescription hasn’t changed at all over the years so she hasn’t needed to buy glasses. She said they can get costly and she is not a fan of contacts which she once tried and are not for her. Great tips. Mr.CBB

    • Andy says:

      My wife’s prescription has changed quite a bit but I was trying to hold out and get lasik before we spend all of the money on new glasses again. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to afford that this year though. We’ll see!

  6. It’s interesting how expensive big name frames are (Prada, Gucci, whatever) that people get on the cheap through insurance!!

    • Andy says:

      Insurance doesn’t save a ton but it’s typically at least 50% off! Which is a lot of money when you’re talking about those brands.

  7. Marie at Family Money Values says:

    It has been my experience that saving via coupons and specials works better than using vision insurance coverage.

    • Andy says:

      I wouldn’t doubt that. Vision insurance really isn’t that expensive though…I’ve done the math and the cost of it covers your annual eye exam. Beyond that, any money you save is just a bonus.

  8. I’m lucky-my dad is an optometrist so I got all of this stuff for free until I graduated college. Now buying contacts and glasses suck but at least he still manages to swipe me some contact lens solution from his office every now and again. That stuff adds up!

    • Andy says:

      Why doesn’t he still hook you up?? Just because you’re out of college doesn’t mean dad can’t still give you some free glasses! :)

  9. I bought my bf $600 glasses w/ fancy frame. It was a gift, but an expensive one.

    • Andy says:

      With lenses and frames I believe that’s how much my wife’s came out to. That was when I was making decent money though so it didn’t hurt the budget too much. :) I’m pretty sure we won’t be spending that much again though!

  10. Terry says:

    Andy,

    My family and I have used Wal-Mart optical centers for both examinations and eye glasses.

    Price-wise it really beats the “one hour” glasses, and most other optical stores.

  11. I dont wear classes or contact, but my wife wears both. She has pretty bad vision so her lenses are a little bit more expensive than most.

  12. Brian says:

    Its funny, the first thing I thought of when seeing the title was ‘Clearly Contacts’, which was the Google ad that displayed :p. I don’t wear glasses and am lucky to have vision care benefits at work so luckily I haven’t had to deal with this yet!

    • Andy says:

      I don’t have any sight issues either but I’m a little worried staring at a computer screen all day will eventually change that. I’ve noticed my vision getting worse since I started this blog…

  13. Frugal Rules says:

    I usually spend around $100/ year on contacts (I get them online) plus about $75 for an annual exam. We don’t have coverage, but we usually do it through our hsa so we get a benefit that way. Thankfully my wife has great vision, so hopefully that will carry over to our kids. I’ve been thinking a lot about getting Lasik done, but have not decided to bite the bullet yet.

  14. We don’t have vision coverage so I am really hoping that my kids won’t need glasses! We do have a health savings account though- so I guess that helps.

    • Andy says:

      From the sounds of your situation I’m not sure you need vision coverage as it doesn’t cover as much as most people think. Paying out-of-pocket for a few exams or lenses won’t be the end of the world. If it happens, just look for the best deal!

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