No vision insurance?

I tried to read Jane Eyre for the first time* when I was about eight.  I've also been wearing glasses since I was about eight.

These two facts may or may not be connected.

Anyway, whether from reading too many books by flashlight, or just plain bad genes, I'm horribly near-sighted.

And until last month, I hadn't had an eye exam since 2008. 

I'd been getting headaches all spring, I stopped wearing my contacts because they were too uncomfortable, and I was living in constant fear of my glasses finally breaking at that one spot in the hinge where there was a hairline crack. . .

But I was overawed by the idea of how much it would cost to get an exam, new contacts, and new glasses all at once without insurance, so I stalled. For months.

Well, folks, it wasn't so bad. 

Here are 4 tips about how to afford vision care when you don't have insurance:

1) If you just need glasses, check out the coupons in your Sunday newspaper. There's one place in my town which consistently offers exams for just $49.
2) Call around for quotes, too, and visit your local eye doctors websites to see if they're running any specials.
3) If you need glasses and contacts, WalMart's vision center is probably going to offer the best value on a combined exam for both.
4) You don't need to buy glasses from the same place that you get your exam and/or contacts.
5) You can do things in installments. Even if your optometrist can't work out a payment plan. First, I had the exams and paid for them—then, after my next payday, I had the contacts ordered. I waited another couple weeks and ordered my glasses online. And the rent still got paid! Win!

You can actually order prescription eyeglasses online. 

My optometrist's assistant tipped me off to this, recommending Zenni and saying the glasses she ordered there cost about a third of what they would have at WalMart. Well, after plunking down $120 for my exams and another $120 for my contacts (they're rigid gas perms), I had to try this out.

The short version: I'm satisfied.

The long version:
  • I did not get the cheapest frames. Mine were $19, and the cheapest are $6.95.
  • I did not get the cheapest lenses—I upgraded for Anti-Reflection coating and that special thing they can do to make your lenses thinner and lighter when you're dealing with seriously strong prescriptions.
  • I got some clip-on sunglasses, too, that are apparently well-made and custom-cut enough to fit my frames without a lot of dorky overhang. (About $4 or something.)
  • They tacked on a $16 "Extra Strength Charge" (I feel discriminated against for being a blindo) and, of course, there was shipping. But. . .
  • My Grand Total was: $57.95
  • Even including shipping.
  • No joke.
  • And they said my order should arrive in 2-3 weeks. It took 9 days.
  • Did I say the total was $57.95?

Just think, if your eyes aren't as high-maintenance as mine, you could get your new glasses for under $20.

I have no complaints quality-wise either. These glasses feel sturdier, even, then my last pair.

Here are some caveats:
  • I would NOT recommend ordering online if you've never worn glasses before. While picking my new frame, I measured my old one to compare to Zenni's measurements—they provide detailed measurements on all of their frames down to the millimeter. So if you have glasses already that you can measure, you'll be able to judge which of Zenni's will fit best. If you don't. . .well, you're shooting in the dark. If you're determined to order online, then at least pick up some well-fitting sunglasses to measure or something.
  • And every millimeter counts—I would try to stay within one or two of target. I thought I compared measurements pretty well to find a match, but I AM finding the bridge of my nose a little pinched with this new pair. Not to a deal-breaking degree, though; I wear my contacts more anyway.
  • Ask your optometrist to measure your PD. This is the distance between your pupils and you'll need it—in addition to the usual prescription s/he writes—to place your order online.
  • My optometrist, understandably, was not thrilled at the idea of ordering glasses online. He said that a study has shown 48% of prescription glasses ordered online turn out to be not quite correct or something like that.
  • But then he added that I would probably be okay since I'm not a kid, don't need bifocals, and don't have bad astigmatism. Read into that what you will.

(This is not a sponsored post. Zenni does not know I'm writing it, and is not compensating me in any way. I'm just offering my own experiences and –unprofessional—opinions for your use.)

*I skipped the middle part about St. John, of course; too boring.

P.S. This blog is now sponsored by Gotta Joe's Coffee based in Loveland, CO. If you're local, check them out!


Cathie said…
You skipped St. John?! How dare you, when I had to suffer through it! ;) Hee, I usually will myself to read the driest parts, simply because I'd feel I'd left a book unfinished if I hadn't.
Unknown said…
This is so great! I recently lost my insurance, and I've been trying to get all the extra usage out of my contacts and glasses before I have to go back in. Last year, with insurance, I ended up paying over $500! I was dreading going back in without insurance, but with this guide, hopefully it won't be so bad!
Marissa Deen said…
Well, at that age I had no such scruples. :) Though there are some instances in which I regret it now. I read The Old Curiosity Shop pretty young, too, but don't remember much at all!
Marissa Deen said…
Thanks, Kika! :)Good luck!
Lauren said…
Also check out deals online from sites such as Groupon, Living Social, Bloomspot, etc.
Jessica said…
My husband and I are blindos, too, and I've been wondering how much extra that would cost through Zenni. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I am curious, though, how do you feel about ordering your glasses online now? Would you do it again/recommend to others? Anything you would do differently?
Marissa Deen said…
Funny that you should ask! I've recently been wearing my contacts more, and have noticed when I take them out and switch to glasses, one eye seems blurry sometimes. Possibly poor manufacturing of the glasses? It could be the astigmatism or PD is slightly off? In any case, I DO have insurance now, and am going to try getting new glasses soon to see how they compare. Technically, the glasses and contacts I have now SHOULD be made off the same prescription, albeit by different makers, so it strikes me as odd that they're not quite matching up for me. :)