Save over 60% on glasses and contact lenses!
68% of Brits wear either glasses or contact lenses. Here's how to save money on those specs and lenses, plus your rights as a myopic (or hyperopic) consumer...
Spectacle wearers like Anne Robinson and Vic Reeves have put wearing glasses back on the map.
Just as well, as over two thirds of Brits (68%) either wear glasses or contact lenses. So as a nation of myopics and hyperopics, it pays to know what you're entitled to!
Know your rights
If you suspect you need glasses, the first thing you'll need to do is get an eye test. But before you go looking for those free eye test vouchers, double check if you're automatically entitled to a free eye test.
According to the Eyecare trust, more than 30 million Brits are entitled to free eye care (sight tests and/or optical vouchers to cover the cost of any vision correction).
You should have an eye examination once every two years, and the Trust recommends children aged under nine and people aged 70 and over have annual eye examinations.
If you are under 18 and in full time education, over 60, or are in receipt of benefits, you're among the range of people who qualify. Simply fill out a form at the opticians to avoid any charges.
If you work closely with computers, you are also entitled to a free test, paid for your employer. They will usually provide you with a voucher, which you can take to an optician of your choice (unless specified).
If, after your test, you find you need glasses, your employer will also have to pay for any corrective lenses you need (although this only applies if you need them specifically for computer use).
And before you start looking at the latest Prada range, the pair you'll get is likely to be very basic, and depending on who you work for, you'll either be given a voucher or a cash contribution to get your pair.
There's more to choosing glasses than meets the eye, and when making a purchase, you'll not only have to decide which frame looks good, but add up costs such as having your lenses thinned out, which can cost a small fortune.
One other way to try to cut the cost is to buy your glasses online. I did this and found I could save over 63% when compared to the high street. However, if you're going to go down this route, there are a couple of things you should remember:
1) If you have a very strong prescription, you'll generally have less choice when buying glasses online.
This is generally the case of prescriptions of more than +/- 8 dioptres (the sum of the numbers in the 'SPH' and 'CYL' columns on your prescription), although some sites will only make lenses adding up to less than +/- 6 dioptres.
2) The other measurement you must get spot on is the 'pupillary distance' (the distance between your pupils) which you will be asked for when buying your frames.
This may sound trivial, but if you don't get this measurement right, you could end up with a pair of glasses you won't be able to wear.
Your exact pupillary distance is even more important with higher prescriptions, and being even a millimetre out can end up causing you problems. This is why you should always try to get this measurement done by your optician.
They may charge you a fee, but this is better than getting a useless pair of glasses.
If they refuse, you could also ask a friend to help you measure it using a ruler - Onestopglasses.co.uk explains how. Either way, do not try to estimate or guess this distance, or opt for the 'average pupillary distance' some sites automatically put on your prescription - you will probably regret it.
For a guide to sites which offer discount specs, read Cut the cost of your glasses by 63% to check out the bargains on offer.
Last year, I decided to take the plunge and try contact lenses. Partly for cosmetic reasons, but for someone with a strong prescription like me, also because they proved good value.
A little while ago, we compared buying lenses online vs. the high street, and although buying contact lenses from the high street will also get you free check-ups and the lenses delivered to your doorstep, it can also leave you out of pocket.
Alison Hunt also checked out daysoft lenses, which offers contact lenses from as little as £9.98 for a month's supply.
Daysoft is a one-size-fits-all lens, and claims its 'Uni-Fit' design allows it to replace lenses which have a base curve (BC) of between 8.3 and 9.2 mm and a diameter between 13.8 and 14.5mm. Its lenses also have two different liquid contents - 58% or 72%.
So, in theory, if you wore 1 Day Acuvues, which have a BC of 8.5mm or 9mm and a diameter of 14.2mm, or Focus Dailies, which have a BC of 8.6mm and a diameter of 13.8mm, you could wear daysoft lenses.
But with such large differences between 1 day Acuvues and Focus Dailies, I don't see how the same box of lenses could be right for both lens wearers. After all, choose the wrong lens and it will feel like you have grit in your eye - or worse, it could do more lasting damage.
Our guinea pigs at lovemoney.com also had mixed reactions to the lenses, and most felt they would not switch brands just because of the price.
If you are brave enough to try Daysoft, they do offer a full money back guarantee, provided you've used no more than seven pairs when you return them.
Getting your prescription
Your glasses or contact lens prescription is legally yours, and you should always get a copy, free of charge, after your test.
If you're a first time contact lens wearer, the optician may want to check your lenses are suitable before giving you the prescription, and you'll usually need to go back after a few weeks to check everything is fine.
But once he or she is satisfied, you paid for your prescription, so don't be afraid to ask for a copy.
If you're having a hard time getting your prescription, sites such as Getlenses.com will call your optician to check it for you.
Others such as contactlenses.co.uk will accept your order, but reserves the right to contact your optician to verify it if needed, and some sites like Lensway won't even ask.
Either way, don't be tempted to order lenses without a valid prescription. Saving a few pounds on contact lenses may sound savvy to you, but scrimp on a proper contact lens fitting and you could end up doing more harm than good to your eyes.