Deb and I both have been blessed with the “glasses gene”. In other words, our eyes are terrible and we’ve both needed corrective lenses since a very young age. This in combination with our “frugal gene” poses quite a problem, because glasses and contact lenses are expensive! (Be thankful, all of you with perfect vision!)
We have been needing new glasses for quite some time, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that we finally decided that enough was enough. We got our eye exams and new prescriptions, and started looking for replacement glasses. Naturally, we had to find the best deal, but there were a few unique snags in our particular situation. Here’s how we were able to replace our lenses for half the cost.
Ditching the Coke Bottles
Deb’s eyes are quite bad, and by that I mean they are in the -9 range. This means she requires ultra-thin, high-index lenses or else she’ll be wearing coke bottles for glasses. (Actually, even with the highest index glass, the lenses are still quite thick.) But most retailers such as Costco and Walmart Optical don’t even carry the highest index glass! (Highest index currently is 1.74.) They are only offered in more specialized doctor’s offices and this, of course, means the lenses are extra expensive. When we checked with the places that did carry them, the prices were around $470-500 for just the lenses without any frames! Yikes!
(And just to answer the question you’re wondering, Deb does wear contact lenses on occasion. She just prefers glasses because of other issues she has with her eyes.)
My nearsightedness isn’t quite as bad as Deb’s (I’m in the -5 range), but I still needed at least a 1.67 high index lens to keep my glasses from being too heavy or unsightly. Those are cheaper and more widely available, but still around $200 with no frames.
We don’t have vision coverage in our health insurance to help with the expense, so we were looking at around $700 just for lenses! Ouch!
What About the Frames?
So all of this research has not involved any frames yet. We have a long history with glasses and have had numerous problems with getting the right fit for a variety of reasons. We’ve also had unfortunate success with many frames not lasting very long. So while we did look into options for full frame and lenses online (and some of them were cheaper than what we ended up going with), the combination of 1) Limits to what types of rims we could get because of the high prescription (semi-rimless, which we prefer often wasn’t allowed), 2) Styles we didn’t like, 3) and Uncertainty about the quality and fit made us look particularly at lens replacement services.
In the end, since we’ve been wearing glasses for such a long time, we have numerous frames in perfectly good condition lying around. We were hoping to be able to reuse some of them if it meant having a style we already know we like and that will fit. So we did some searching around online to see whether there was a cheaper way to replace our glasses while still meeting our high-index needs.
That’s when we found ReplaceALens.
ReplaceALens is an eyeglass shop and lab located in Denver, Colorado that also has an e-commerce component to their business. This is important to note because it’s not some dude’s online business that operates out of his basement with the actual work outsourced to who-knows-where. ReplaceALens is a brick and mortar business with a real storefront servicing local customers, they also are a lab where they have real professionals doing all the lens work in-house. They are essentially a local, family-owned small business with an online presence.
What this means is that they have the customer service and care of a small business, but the efficiency of a vertically integrated online business. This really shows both in their wholesale prices as well as their customer satisfaction.
We looked up this business’s reviews on Google and the praise was so effusive that at first we thought it’s got to be a sham. But after reading page after page of real customers sharing their genuinely incredible experiences, it seemed like maybe this place was the real deal after all. You can check them out for yourself right here: ReplaceALens Google Reviews.
We decided to give them a try, since they offered a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee anyway (and seems to stand by it wholeheartedly, according to the reviews). All we needed to do was ship them the frames we wanted to reuse with our prescriptions, they’d take care of the rest, and ship them back.
What We Paid
ReplaceALens offered the 1.74 High Index glass, and their starting price was already beating our previous competitors handily at just $184. (This price is for semi-rimless frames, if you have a full-rimmed frame it’ll be less.) This price included an anti-reflective coating and anti-scratch protection.
My prescription with 1.67 High Index glass came out to be $173, so I opted to move up to the 1.74 High Index lenses too for just $11 more. At $184, this was still cheaper than if I had gotten the 1.67 lenses somewhere else.
But there’s more, because they give an automatic volume discount of $5 off each pair if you purchase 2 or more pairs of glasses, we got $10 off for our order of two. They also have monthly discount deals, and since we found them during their November “Black Friday” Month, we got an additional 15% off the total price of our order! (Now while they have specials every month, you won’t find a 15% discount from them each time. Check their website to see what monthly sale is running.)
So in the end, we paid exactly $311.10 for two pairs of 1.74 High Index lenses replaced in our frames including the one-way shipping to them (return shipping is included in their price).* That’s less than HALF of what we would have paid elsewhere! Even if we weren’t recycling our old frames, we could have purchased new frames, sent those instead, and still have come out way ahead of our other local retailers.
When we received the glasses back, they were well-packaged, included handy little microfiber cleaning cloths, and the lenses were exceptionally clear and bright, almost sparkling. The lenses were cut exactly to match the shape of our previous pairs and we didn’t have any issues with the fit when we tried them on. We couldn’t have been more satisfied!
We had a very positive experience with ReplaceALens. The price was good and the ordering process was all very good. One downside to using them is the timing of getting the order back. We had to ship the frames off to them which took about three days, then the processing took another week, then another three days for the return shipment. So all in all, we were waiting around two weeks from start to finish. You would get a much faster turnaround time with an actual physical retailer.
Of course, you also could probably get cheaper alternatives if you’re willing to go with full frame and lens replacements and aren’t as persnickety as we are. There are numerous vendors offering that service online with varying degrees of quality and proficiency, so do your homework carefully!
Another related downside is that is since you’re mail ordering the glasses, you won’t have the assistance of getting the fit adjusted by a professional. If you’ve got an odd-shaped head or nose like me (my head is unusually wide, I’ve been told!) you might have a problem getting the perfect fit. As mentioned before, we were reusing a previous pair of glasses so to avoid this issue.
A Little Bonus
Even though we wish that we didn’t need corrective lenses at all, we are happy for ReplaceALens making it a less painful experience than it could have been. We’ve been wearing our glasses for a few weeks now and the lenses still look great, they definitely are using high quality glass, and we have detected no defect in their workmanship. We’re seeing clearly again and are thankful for the savings.
As a bonus, along with our new glasses, ReplaceALens gave us a little promo code to share with YOU if you should ever need new glasses. Simply use the following promo code when you check out to get $5 off any $50 purchase: 5OFF50 (Expires 12/31/2017, and doesn’t appear to be able to be stacked with other promo codes.)
Also, the links on this page are affiliate links so if you do end up making a purchase after clicking through this page, this blog will get a commission. Thanks in advance, if you do!
Merry Christmas, and may your vision be clear in the new year!
*Don’t forget that if you have an HSA (health savings account), glasses ARE qualifying expenses! So even if you don’t have vision coverage from your actual insurance plan, you can pay for them using the tax-sheltered savings from an HSA.