When I was growing up, my entire family had glasses, but I did not. I remember when I was asked by my parents if I had trouble seeing anything, I said “yeah things are blurry”. I didn't understand what they meant, but I knew I wanted to get glasses too. Finally, I was taking to an eye doctor, where they confirmed that I did need glasses. I was so excited! Sadly, since then, wearing glasses has become a bit of a pain.

During my teenage years I would get a new pair of glasses every other year. That was when my parents' benefits allowed them to purchase new glasses for us, so we would update our prescriptions and get a new pair of frames and glasses. I was always so surprised at how much they cost! We were very limited by our choice of glasses, because there was such a big difference between $159 frames and $219 frames, let alone $289 designer frames! So we were stuck with about a dozen options, half of which obviously sucked and the rest were just “meh”. But that was the only way to get glasses, and I needed glasses to see, so I always put up with it.

A couple of years ago in college, I found out that I needed to get new glasses, yet again. At this point, I was no longer underneath my parental coverage, and as such, could not get them to cover the incredibly expensive cost of a new prescription and new glasses. Even if I got “cheap” frames, at about $150, I'd still have to pay for the lenses, which would double the cost to about $300. That was money I simply didn't have.

Luckily, I had been reading a couple of personal finance websites, and one of them mentioned buying glasses online for cheaper. So I looked at a couple of websites, and wandered around online, cautiously collecting information. I was hesitant for a couple of reasons. First, this was a classic “too good to be true” situation. Why would glasses that regularly cost hundreds of dollars be sold for so much cheaper? Something must not be right. Second, even if they were legitimate, how could I guarantee that they would look good on me without trying them on first?

Despite these hesitations, I decided I would rather invest $40 into a potential scam or a crappy pair of glasses rather than drop $300 for glasses I didn't really like. So I ordered a pair, and I've been wearing them everyday for the last two years. They're awesome.

Last week my wife and I decided to get some new glasses yet again. She had just updated her prescription, and my two year old glasses had gotten a little dinged up, so I figured I'd just re-order the same ones that I already got. Why not? They were only $40! While looking around at the website, I found another pair that looked interesting, so I ordered them as well. For the frames and the lenses, they were $8. Eight dollars. Not three hundred, not even two hundred. Eight dollars. I got them in the mail yesterday, and the prescription is perfect, and the frames look good.

How to Order Glasses Online

The first thing to do is to figure out what kind of glasses you want. If you're happy with the pair that you have, then you can stay at home, but if you want to shop around, hit up your local mall and check out what kind of glasses they have. Try on a few pairs, find something you like, and then bust out your measuring tape. When you order glasses online, you can't try them on, but you can compare them to what you have in hand.

So if you find out what looks good on you, you can order a similar shape, and size, and be relatively confident that your new glasses will also look good on you. Measure the lenses width and height, as well as the width of the bridge. Those three measurements will be the most important. You can also look at the entire frame width, and the length of the temple arms as well. All good online glasses retailers will provide the measurements of their products.

Second, you're going to need an updated prescription. Sadly, that can't be outsourced online, so you're going to have to go to an optometrist. I've had excellent luck at our local Costco, but if you have a family eye doctor, or a wonderful local small business, feel free to support them. Make sure that they do more than measure your prescription, as you'll want to be sure that your eyes are in a healthy condition. Your new prescription will give you all the information you need to order new prescription lenses online. Well, all except one thing. Your pupillary distance.

So the third thing you have to do is figure out what your pupillary distance is. This is the distance between your pupils. It will affect how the lenses fit to your eyes. If the measurement is completely off, then you might experience headaches, and the world you see might not be exactly how it is. But don't worry, it is very easy to calculate – as long as you have a friend. Get a ruler, and have your friend/spouse/co-worker hold it up in front of your eyes while you stare into the distance. Don't look at the ruler, and don't look at your friend. That will bring your eyes closer together. Measure, in millimeters, how far from the center of one pupil to the other. The average is 62mm, but it can range from 50-70+. Mine was 61, my wife's was 55.

Fourth, go shopping! The website we used was zennioptical.com. If you want more options, the go to resource for online glasses shopping is glassyeyes.blogspot.com. He's been blogging about buying glasses online for years, and as such, has the best links/resources for shopping for glasses online. Each website has its own positives and negatives. Some provide more information, but are harder to navigate, and others are cheaper, but less user friendly. Find one that you're comfortable with, and get to ordering!

Fifth, once you found the frames that you like, fill out your lens information using your prescription. It is all pretty straightforward, as you just copy and paste. You'll also need to input your pupillary distance here as well. Most websites will also offer you additional options. For example, at Zenni Optical you have your choice of tinting the lens, adding an anti reflective coating, or changing the thickness of the lens. If you're ordering a backup pair of glasses, then don't bother with any fancy additional options, but once you're comfortable ordering online, you might consider getting a thinner lens, especially if you have a high prescription. This is the “index” option. The standard seems to be about 1.50, and it gets thinner as the number gets higher (1.61, 1.67, etc). The $8 pair that I got were 1.50, and since I have a high prescription (think -6 in each eye), they are really quite thick. Almost embarrassingly. But my others are 1.61, and they aren't even noticeable.

Sixth, place your order, and wait! Mine have come in the mail within a week or two. Mine came in their own case, wrapped in a microfiber cloth for cleaning them.
Have you ordered glasses online?

About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.