Glasses for Less - How to save on prescription spectacles

Glasses For Less - How to save on prescription eyeglasses.

I've called this site Glasses For Less and that's exactly what it's about. How to spend less money on your prescription spectacles.

Some people close to me have recently needed new eye wear and they've both managed to make substantial savings over the prices that the  New Zealand eye care industry is able to charge their captive market. Here's how they did it in 2007.

You can read our story, or skip ahead to information on budget eyewear.

Tessa's Story, part 1

My girlfriend Tessa has needed prescription glasses for most of her life. Late in 2006 she was due for new eyeglasses, but we were also travelling overseas on holiday in December and had heard that they were much cheaper where we were going so we waited.

She needs progressive lenses for her eye condition and as she needs the glasses for both close-up and driving desperately wanted transition lenses. At New Zealand prices this was going to cost her around $900.

We went into a couple of smart, modern, optometrists in a fairly affluent part of New Delhi and found that we could get her exactly what she wanted for around $300. This included Zeiss lenses and smart, but not brand-name frames. Certainly some of the difference in price is the difference in wages, but there's obviously something else driving the difference in costs.

If you're going to India anyway, it's a great place to get glasses, but the airfares are a lot more than the savings, so although we recommend it as a great place for a holiday, we don't suggest going just for the cheap eye wear.

Diana's Story

Diana, my sister is a journalist, but even as a child she needed prescription spectacles. In April last year she wrote an article for the New Zealand Herald where she detailed her experience buying new glasses:

"The cheapest pair recommended to me cost $550 all up including lenses ... I went shopping online at New York-based, tapped in my details and bought glasses fitted with my prescription from Eyezone Optometrists for NZ$67.50 including postage".

That's about all the public heard about this transaction, I heard a bit more, the glasses were delivered in about a week as expected, and the quality was exactly as she expected. Diana's pretty sold on getting her glasses this way & is a great exponent of the service.

Are you starting to spot a trend here? Tessa saved a whopping 66%, Diana saved around 80%. In both cases they saved the money by sidestepping the over padded New Zealand supply chain, and by not subsidising the high rentals needed to get display windows in malls and popular shopping streets.

Tessa's Story part 2

Well, the inevitable happened, in April 2007. Tessa had a little accident, and the arm of her glasses broke off. This wasn't a manufacturing defect or anything, it's just what happens sometimes when light metal frames collide with hard objects.

Not feeling like heading straight back to Delhi we went to the local optometrist in Lynnmall. Tessa was told that there will only be a small charge for the repair, but the glasses need to be sent away for two or three days.

Tessa is a chef specialising in desserts. She needs her glasses. She can't be expected to make a good looking cake without them. For that matter, she can't even safely drive to work without them. She was caught two ways, she needed her glasses, and she needed her glasses repaired. We discussed this and decided that we'd order a pair from the same place that Diana had. Then once her other pair was repaired, she'll have a spare pair, and will never have to face this difficulty again.

We found the site easy to navigate, Tessa selected the frames she liked and keyed in the prescription information from her optometrists, and we checked out. Tessa's requirements are greater that Diana's, so the bill came to US$ 167.90, or NZ$ 226.59. This is even cheaper than New Delhi, but as these will be the work pair once she has both sets of glasses, she selected sturdier plastic frames and didn't need transition lenses, so we aren't doing a completely fair comparison.

The hardest bit was selecting the frames.

I'm writing this the next day, so her glasses aren't expected for another week. I'll update this when we have received them.

Are you starting to spot a trend here? Tessa saved a whopping 66%, Diana saved around 80%. In both cases they saved the money by sidestepping the over padded New Zealand supply chain, and by not subsidising the high rentals needed to get display windows in malls and popular shopping streets.

Tessa's Story part 3

In the end it took just over two weeks for the glasses to arrive. Part of this was because her astigmitism requires specially ground lenses that take a while to make and part of it was just the time it takes to send a parcel. I knew about both delays, but for some strange reason expected them to run in parallel. Doh!

Tessa was wrapped with the glasses and when her "good" pair came back from being repaired she kept wearing the $39 Glasses pair.

July 2008 Update

That was a little over a year ago and many things have changed, she's now a full-time student again studying patisserie at the NSIA and her food blog The Unknown Chef is now pretty much dedicated to the food she's doing in class and for competitions, but her feelings about the glasses haven't. Tessa still prefers her $39 Glasses pair and has worn them just about continuously ever since. She tells everyone who talks about getting new glasses of her experience

How you can benefit from our experience

First, two disclaimers:

If you import goods from overseas you are liable to pay GST on your purchase and may have to pay customs duty. There is no import duty on eye glasses, and customs does not bother to collect GST if the amount to be collected is less than $50. So you probably won't have to pay GST as long as the total cost of your order is less than NZ$ 400 and the glasses are for your personal use.

Buying goods on the internet can expose you to risks as well as savings. The internet is full of scam artists who will take your details and never deliver the goods you ordered or worse. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has published a guide to internet shopping and the Consumer's Institute has a similar set of tips in their safe shopping checklist.

Before we purchased I checked out the site. They have secure entry of credit card details with the certificate supplied by Thwaite, a well known certificate authority. They supply contact details on the site including business name, phone numbers, and a street address. Add to that the personal recommendation from my sister and I felt confident giving them my credit card.

I deliberately didn't put a link to their site earlier in this article as I wanted to make sure you had read the above first.

On to the site:

Their site is at Given the name of the business, that's hardly a surprise. Depending on the glasses you want and the options you choose you may save between 60% and 80% of the equivalent New Zealand price by using them.

When you get there, you will need the following:

  • Your prescription from your optometrist
  • The distances between your pupils and the centre of your nose. It's easiest to get a friend to measure this
  • Enough time to browse the available frames and pick one you like.
  • A credit card
  • An address the glasses can be sent to.


Because I believe in the product, I've had this site up for nearly 2 years without any paid advertising or commissions, but with the recession I've decided I need to try and make a little, if only to cover costs.

If you click this banner Hottest Style Glasses, Frame AND Lenses, for $39!! and buy some glasses I get a small commission payment from 39DollarGlasses. If you'd rather I didn't get paid, you can copy to your browser bar. Either way you pay the same price and get a good deal.

Good luck and happy shopping.