Glasses are an expensive necessity, but with a bit of selective shopping you can slash the cost right down. Whether it's a Dame Edna look you're going for, or more John Lennon, use online discounters and you'll be blinded by the amazing savings.
What's the trick?
The key here is to buy your specs from an online discounter. All you need to do is supply an up-to-date prescription (from the last two years) and enter the relevant details on the form.
If your prescription is out-of-date, you can expect to pay £25-30 for an eye test - or keep an eye out on the forum for free vouchers which regularly appear.
Why are they so cheap?
As with contact lenses, if you buy specs from the high street, then you're covering expensive overheads and salaries as well as excessive profit margins.
Opt to purchase your glasses from an execution-only company and you can substantially cut the price as you won't be financing costly sight equipment. They also buy in bulk directly from manufacturers, enabling them to get special deals and discounts.
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What info do I need?
By law opticians are obliged to provide you with a prescription. Once you have had a thorough eye test, they must give you a copy of your prescription without requiring you to make a purchase.
Specifies the strength of the lens; plus for long sightedness, minus for short sightedness.
This is the horizontal distance between your pupils in millimetres. If you don't know what it is you can either have a go at measuring it yourself with the help of a mate and a mirror, or use the average which is about 63.
This is your astigmatism correction. If you don't have an astigmatism. you can leave this blank.
This corrects an astigmatism, which is when the eye is slightly rugby shaped.
Cheap GlassesFor a full list, see the Cheap Glasses page, which has all the latest, up-to-date deals and offers.
If you don't have regular access to the internet or just want to speak to a human, a few of the dispensers will also take your order over the phone or by post. Compare this to a high street retailer like Dollond & Aitchison, where you will pay from £59 for a basic frame and lens.
Prices taken June 2010. Excluding delivery.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a fashionista, many of the online dispensers offer designer specs at bargain basement prices too. Try some frames in a high street store to see what suits and fits you then make a note of the model number and then you can try to find the exact frames online without having to buy blind!
Budgetspex comes up trumps here again with designer frames from £44.99. You could also try Perfectspecs who have D&G frames starting from £109 with free lenses.
Bifocals and varifocals
The majority of online dispensers do not offer varifocals as they are difficult to fit correctly. If you find a site that does offer this, you do need to be more cautious. Due to the complexity of the lens, you risk losing more money if you make a mistake with the prescription.
What happens if they're not right?
You do need to be careful when ordering. If you make a mistake with entering prescription details, you are not necessarily guaranteed a refund or exchange. Having said that, dispensers like Spex4less offer a full money back guarantee, regardless of whether it was your mistake or theirs. In other cases, provided you return the frames within the specified time limit you should get a refund or exchange, though you will have to stump up for the postage costs again. If you're not sure of something on your prescription most online dispensers will decipher it for you if you contact them.
Head to Dolland & Aitchison to buy your specs and you would pay £99 for a basic lens and frame. Buy them online and you could pay as little as £10.50 for the frames and lenses plus they'll be delivered straight to your door. That's an eye-opening 90% saving.