Friday, 12 October 2012

I can see clearly now the rain has gone... Wait, nope, it's just my new glasses.

When I was about twenty, years of school and uni finally took their toll on my eyes. I started getting headaches and having trouble reading the slides in lectures... Yep, I needed glasses.

I think I spent about $400 on that first pair of glasses, and I didn't even really like them all that much.

I've learnt a lot since then. Some of what I've learnt is even about buying glasses without spending a whole week's pay. That's what I'm sharing here.

Your eye tests are free.
Medicare will pay for you to have an eye test every two years. Some optometrists will waive the cost of your eye test even if medicare doesn't cover it (i.e. if you've already had a test in the last two years), because they want you to buy your frames from them.

Your employer may partially cover your costs.
This is the case for almost all public servants and a great deal of employees in the private sector. If you work at a computer, usually all you need is a note from your optometrist stating that you require glasses for screen work, and your receipts. Chat to your HR team for more information.

Your health insurance will cover more of the costs at some stores than others.
I looked into it and my health fund offers special deals at Specsavers stores. Some quick maths made it clear that this was my cheapest option. When I visited the Specsavers shop, they were more than happy to check for me exactly what my fund would cover. I chose one pair of awesome frames and one of very stylish sunglasses - $339 in total - but all I paid was $89. I cannot recommend enough that you work out where your insurance dollar counts the most.

Yes, these are actually my new glasses. Are they not beautiful?

It's almost always cheaper to have your old frames updated.
This means that optometrists try to steer you away from it (hint: they're in this business for the excellent profit margin). It costs about $100 at most optometrists to update your current glasses. If you love your frames, there's no need to adjust to a new style when you can have them remade with your new prescription. Speaking of which...

Optometrists HAVE to provide a written prescription if you ask... But they won't offer.
Without your prescription, you can't buy glasses anywhere else. This is what they want. Get your prescription and you suddenly have more options for where you buy your frames.

Don't be afraid to buy glasses online.
All you need is your prescription and your "pupillary distance" (this gets measured as part of your eye test, but you may need to ask for it specifically). I've bought several pairs online and it's always worked out well. I've used Optical4Less and despite the slightly dodgy website and not-so-great English, the glasses were great. It's an excellent site if you don't have health insurance and you need to buy glasses as cheaply as possible. The frames I bought never broke or scratched, though I admit they didn't have that designer look. I've also used SelectSpecs for designer frames. That's where I bought the Burberry frames I'm wearing right now - I tried them on in an optometrist where they would cost $450. I bought them for $149 online. Is it any wonder Australians are turning to internet shopping to save cash? Both sites provided exactly what was promised, with excellent customer service.

I spent more than I had to...
Because my job is reasonably conservative, I'm getting my current black Burberry frames updated so I can wear them to work most days and save the brilliant, colourful frames above for casual wear. I feel lucky to be able to afford this luxury - as one of my favourite heroines, Aurora Teagarden, says, having several pairs of frames is one of the best parts of being rich. For me, it's one of my favourite splurges. Even so, my new frames, new sunglasses and new lenses for my current frames will cost me... $188 ALL UP. That's still half of what I paid for that very first pair years ago. And if I'd chosen frugality over style, I could have paid nothing at all out of pocket.


  1. I've been meaning to write about optical for a while, since it always costs me a fortune when I have to update my glasses. Looks like you've beat me to the punch.

    Ditto with the online purchases. Cheap Geek found that the designer frames he wanted were 50% off RRP when he shopped online. Once he got the frames, he shopped around at a few local optometrists and went with the one that quoted the cheapest price for the lens he wanted. :D

    1. I cringe when I see how much some people spend... we really do get rorted with optical costs in Australia!