I've been paying into my optical insurance for years, costing me roughly $100 per year, for a plan that only allows for one annual pair of glasses or contacts, often requiring another out-of-pocket payment of around $200. The last time I had an eye appointment I ended up with a pair of glasses that cost well over $200, didn't fit at all, and caused double-vision and major headaches. Pair that with the frustrating sales pitches they threw at me when looking through their meager stock of over-priced frames, and it's enough to swear off vision insurance altogether. My prescription never really changes all that much, I'd much rather not deal with the pushy sales folk, and I'd really like to stop spending those extra hundreds of dollars every year.
Enter the age of the internet.
I hadn't really heard of any alternatives, so I decided to do a little bit of research. I found there are a ton of places around the world that fill that certain niche I was looking for. And better yet, they all offer a better selection, more options, good quality and, when you catch a sale, insanely low prices. Low enough that I decided to buy some from a few different places, just to see if they could hold their own against the optician's offerings.
First I tried Goggles4U. From what I gather, they manufacture and assemble their glasses over in Pakistan. This, however adds considerable shipping time on to your order. Seriously, don't expect anything in the mail for a month or two. The quality of the frames and lenses are also what you might expect. There are no spring hinges, just the basic open and close. The quality of the lenses were adequate, but not quite what I received from my optician. It did take a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. Overall, Goggles4U was the least expensive of the places I've tried, and they have reasonable quality. Definitely a good "back-up pair" place to shop. (Try promo code '1dglasses')
Next I tried GlassesShop.com. They offer a nice alternative to the styles of Goggles4U, with similar frame quality. The exceptions are the lenses are far superior, and you don't have to wait quite as long for shipping. I really like the pair I received and once another sale comes around, I'll likely get another pair. Depending on your tastes, this may be the ideal place to get a good pair of glasses for a very reasonable price. (Try promo codes 'GS19' or 'LOVEMOM50').
Coastal.com. This place knows how to do glasses, and if you're looking for an alternative to going to LensCrafters, this is your best bet. The frame quality is right up there with the vision centers, as is the lens quality. Their website is well laid out, service is fast, and overall quality is waaaay above par. After ordering you should receive your glasses in less than 2 weeks, depending of course, on where you live. They are slightly more expensive than the other places, but if you're looking for a dead-on, reputable source for new specs, this is your place. (Try promo codes 'FIRSTPAIRFREE' or 'FBFREE').
So now I have a nice selection of good to great quality glasses ready and waiting for the next time I wake up from a bender and have forgotten where the pair I was wearing slid off my face. And instead of piecing together a broken pair of "nice" glasses with tape and super glue (and praying they'll last until the next year so I can buy another overpriced pair), I have a healthy selection to quickly replace them. And I no longer have to pay for monthly vision insurance.