Save. Spend. Splurge.

My $155 sleep-deprived mistake and how I learned how to buy glasses online

Just the other day I got up to take care of the baby, and as I was holding a screaming Baby Bun and trying to orient myself while sleep-deprived, I heard a very unpleasant cracking noise as I went to go get up.


The sweet sweet sound of breaking your glasses at 3 a.m. in the morning.

A whole arm snapped off and no amount of duct tape or superglue would fix it.

…a whole string of expletives came out of my mouth (I’m fairly sure the baby has learned a few of those words by now), and I was frustrated and angry beyond belief.

How could I be so stupid!?

Commence berating of self and stress/sleep-deprived induced ranting at how dumb I am to not have been more careful and to not have at least put those glasses in their case before sleeping.

After all that was over, I reviewed my options:

Buy a replacement pair ASAP via an optician, or buy them online.


Here are the options I went through and what each one cost:


The lenses were still good, so all I needed were some replacement frames. My mother went out to the optician and in-person, the optician first told her: For these lenses? The frames will cost at least $200.

After my mom said: Wow that’s really expensive.. I don’t think my daughter wants to pay $200 for some basic frames.

(Really though, it’s the lenses that cost money. I spent a pretty penny getting them with UV protection and all that jazz.)

The optician asked: Does she have coverage?

My mom: No, and she’s not even working right now!

Optician: Okay, $150.

Then my mom said: Let me call her and ask if it’s okay.

The optician places a call, and I pick up.

After a little MORE haggling, I got her down to $100 for a pair of frames.

Then I talked to my mother and over the phone I agreed with her that the frames would most likely be super cheap plastic crap frames, and for $100 that was pretty expensive seeing as there are other options online for glasses for those who are a bit more online-shopping savvy such as yours truly.

I pretty much only buy my contact lenses online, and not in-store, so why not my glasses?


Enter: A whole range of websites that offer such services!

These were the three I considered:


Recommended by Catherine of Plunged in Debt on Twitter, they even have a deal where the first pair of frames are free!

Of course, this deal only applies to certain frames (no brand names here, everything $80 or less), but still. FREE FRAMES.

Naturally you can’t just order the frames and pay for shipping, you need to also pay for lenses, and when all was said and done these free frames ended up costing $60 with shipping included if I chose the cheapest of all the options and didn’t get anything fancy added on to the glasses.

Ouch. $60 for a pair of frames I am not even sure about, with lenses that aren’t as good as the ones I have.


The cheapest of all 3 options was Zenni Optical. Recommended by Mario of Debt Blag, you can find frames for $13 on this site and shipping to Canada is $13, then to buy the lenses, it’d be a bit more money but not ridiculous.

The only thing about these frames and glasses are that they’re cheap frames. Like really cheap, drugstore-quality frames.

I kind of ruled out this option seeing as I already broke my glasses and I didn’t want to buy backup frames as I don’t need them (I normally wear contacts).


I ended up going with this option in the end as you can tell by the blog title, because I could get the exact frame that I currently own, which I love.

The frame I own is light, flexible and although it will not stand up to a 125lb 120lb woman sitting or stepping on them, they’re excellent, they don’t pinch my head nor the bridge of my nose.

I don’t really wear glasses outside, but lately with the baby, contacts are too much of a hassle to take out, put in, clean and all that.

Glasses are much easier until I am able to sleep a decent stretch of 5 hours in a row.

I naturally googled “Smart Buy Glasses Coupon” and found one for $10 off.

Hey $10 off is better than $0!

Free shipping included, I bit the bullet in 2 minutes and ordered it.

I actually recall these frames being $300 at the optician, which is why $155 seemed reasonable to me. I think I ended up paying almost $700 for my original glasses because the frames were $300 and the lenses were $400.



Umm.. I have expensive taste?

No really though, for only about $40 more over the uber convenient in-store optician option, I’d get my exact frames and not worry about whether or not they were cheap, light enough, if they’d slip or pinch my face in any way.

I’m cheap for certain things and even angrier that I have to fork over $155 in the first place, but if my days of shopping has taught me anything it is to not settle for cheap substitutes and to buy what you actually want.

DO NOT buy substitutes. I say this all the time for clothing and for something as important as glasses, this is not a place to scrimp on.

Oh, and Single Ma has assured me that this is a medical need and does not violate my “no retail shopping” challenge for 2014.


You need specific information about your prescription which is rather hard to wrangle out of the eye doctors because they KNOW once they give you the details on your prescription you are 99% less likely to buy contacts or glasses through them, and are going to go online for the best deal.

Whenever I get my eyes checked, I make it a point to request a copy of my prescription. If they kick up a fuss, I start getting aggressive with them, insisting on having a copy for my records no matter what.

Anyway, this is what you need to buy glasses online:

  • OD = Right Eye
  • OS = Left Eye
  • Your prescription power (this is the strength, like +5.00, and you need it for OD and OS)
  • Your prescription’s cylinder (you need it for OD and OS)
  • Your prescription’s axis (you need it for OD and OS)
  • PD = This can either be one number or two. If you have two, enter both and they’ll calculate the single number you need.
  • Size of the frame you need – this is easy if you already have a frame you need to replace, just buy the same one!
  • You can also look at the side of the frame to get the information and google what it means.
  • Generally, you need to know:
  • Frame Bridge
  • Lens Width
  • Temple Length

…you may also find that you may want to know the Frame Width to know if it’ll fit your head, and to calculate this it is:

Lens Width x 2 + Bridge + 6mm for hinges.

So if your lens width is 50, and your bridge is 16, it is:

50 x 2 + 16 + 6 = 122mm for the Frame Width

You’re set with all that information above to buy glasses online and pay a lot less than if you were to go to an optician.



  • Jason

    I am fortunate enough to have 20/20 vision myself, but unfortunate to have bad luck with sunglasses. I bought a pair of oakleys for around $150 years ago and managed to hold onto them for half of the summer. So after that mishap I purchased a pair for $12 at H&M. After finishing the summer season off with those, I decided I would try again next season. Here goes $160 towards a new pair of oakleys. They dove deep in the lake the following day and now reside on the bottom with fish and other artifacts. Back to my $12 pair which I seem to be better at holding onto. Then around new years I was in Palm Springs and found myself looking at glasses in a nice little store. I found a pair of discontinued Carerras for $40 that retail at $220. I LOVED THOSE ONES. Same night I left them on the patio at a restaurant I was at. I wanted those glasses again but I couldn’t even find them on ebay for cheaper than $90… I now forbid myself from purchasing expensive sunglasses.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      So.. be careful wearing cheap sunglasses because they should at least have UVA/UVB protection or else your eyes and pupils are dilating / opening wide, to let in more of the sun’s rays which damage your eyes more than if you simply didn’t bother wearing sunglasses.

      In particular, eye doctors recommend wearing polarized sunglasses because they offer the best protection for your eyes. Mirrored AND polarized (ray-bans, persol, oakleys) are the best….

  • NZ Muse

    As I blogged the other month, I bought my first pair of glasses sight unseen from Clearly Contacts for about $120.

    Was looking at about $400 for pairs instore.

    My last pair I also bought online, but I did manage to find a store that sold the same frame, and try it on beforehand. I think that was about $300/400 being a really good frame, and a local website with good service (alas, now closed down) BUT it was covered by my employer.

  • Melissa

    Oh my gosh, thank you so much for sharing this! I have a confession to make… I seriously have not bought glasses (or changed out the lenses, which is worse) since… 2004. Yup. Sick, right? And I am basically blind without correction.

    On one hand, I pretty much only wear contacts, and I have the luxury (no babies :)) to get enough sleep. When I have absolutely had to wear my glasses out, it was for a short amount of time.

    I haven’t bought new glasses because 1) to update my lenses is a lot of money, money I didn’t have and 2) now that I have the money to buy new lenses & glasses, I discovered I’m very attached to the perfect way my old glasses fit my face.

    But I’ll have to bite the bullet soon. Thanks for the push 🙂

    • save. spend. splurge.

      DO IT. It’s worth it to have a backup. You never know if one day, your contacts will irritate your eyes to the point where you simply must wear glasses again. Or you forget to refill. Or you lose one contact…

  • maz

    £300 ( GBP ), not sure what that is in dollars. I cannot even walk without my glasses so there are definitely one of my most treasure possessions. I have 3 pairs, 2 of which I wear regularly & 1 in my car ( I never, ever, remove them from the glove department ). If the price seems, well, pricey, it’s mainly because the lens have to been thin to death & that is really expensive. I also have the light-changing thing ( sorry, can’t remember what it’s called but basically, the lenses change with the sun ). That’s it.

  • Tania

    Thank you for this post! I may give the online thing a shot although I did keep all my past glasses going back ten years so I’m hoping to just change out the lens on one of those when the time comes. My lens are very expensive because I have such a high prescription so need to buy the thinner technology lenses. If I buy new lens and new frames, it is very easy to approach $500 to $600. All for something I only wear in the evenings an hour before bed.

    Another reason I love this post is readers. Now that I’m in my 40s I need readers on top of my contacts. Since I only need a 1.0, it is very hard to find a cute pair (I feel less grandma if it is at least a frame I love). Most people that would need a 1.0 can get buy without (you’ll see them holding up a food item in the grocer holding it at arms length and squinting). However, I do financial work and write, also an avid reader so it’s a must. I don’t mind just getting one made so some of these could be an option.

    Love that your term of endearment, baby bun, although it makes me think of Chinese dumplings which in turn, makes me hungry. I’m just imagining cute cheeks whenever you write baby bun.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans

    I’ve definitely sat on my glasses before – no bueno!

  • tomatoketchup

    If you get your exam from an ophthalmologist (someone who went to medical school), getting your prescription info without any hassles should be easy since our income generally does not depend on how many glasses we sell. I usually advise my patients to get their glasses at Costco (not sure if you have those in Canada).

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    I agree, there are some things I will not buy substitutes for, but I’ve never tried it with glasses. Last time I shopped for frames, I got the ones that were totally covered by my insurance rather than the “fancy” ones they tried to upsell me at the office- they’ve served me well.

  • Morgaine

    I’ve bought my last 3 pairs of glasses from clearly contacts and will never look back. My day to day pair is a super light and flexible frame and all the coatings etc on the lenses and cost me $125. I’ve had this pair for almost 4 years now! I also have a pair of designer precrip sunglasses from there and they only cost me $85 on sale 🙂

  • Liliana

    You should try I ordered from them twice. They deliver quality products in a timely manner and the first frame you order from them is free, you only pay for the lenses.

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