Cut the cost of eyecare
Looking after our eyes – or any aspect of our health, for that matter - isn’t an area where it’s advisable cut corners.
But wearing glasses or contact lenses can get expensive, particularly if your prescription needs changing regularly.
However, you don’t have to pay through the nose for quality eye care - follow Moneywise’s top tips to cut the cost.
Get a free (or discounted) eye test
Standard eye tests cost £20 to £30. However, certain people qualify for free tests, including those under the age of 16, or up to the age of 18 and in full-time education, and people aged 60 or over.
If you receive certain benefits you should get a free test and money-off vouchers for glasses or lenses. People registered as blind or partially sighted, glaucoma sufferers and siblings aged over 40, and people with diabetes, are also entitled to a free eye test. You may also qualify if you are a war pensioner.
But it’s not just older and younger members of society – or those suffering ill health – who qualify for free eye tests.
Under the Health and Safety Regulations Act 1992, office workers who use a computer screen for continuous spells in periods of over one hour are also entitled to a free eye test, paid for by their employer, and any furthers tests that are needed.
If you don’t qualify for a free test, look out for discounts at high street opticians or vouchers online. Dolland and Aitchison and Vision Express often have half-price offers if you book online.
Don’t feel obliged to buy your glasses or contact lenses from the optician where you receive your test. Opticians must give you a copy of your up-to-date prescription, leaving you free to shop around for the best deals.
When it comes to frames, it pays to shop around because they can vary widely in price across the high street and online.
Basic styles can cost anywhere from £50, but designer and fashion brands cost upwards of £100.
The best deals tend to be found online with prices from as little as £13, but the downside is not being able to try on different styles. Some sites offer a ‘try at home’ service before you buy, for free or for the price of postage and packing. Try Glasses4Eyes, Tesco Opticians and Glasses Direct.
Alternatively, pop into a high street optician to try on frames; take note of your preferred style and search for it online.
Don’t automatically opt for extras
Both high street and online opticians often try to up-sell you coatings for your lenses, such as anti-reflection, anti-scratch and photochromic lenses.
These extras will bump up the price, so consider whether you really need them.
Contact lenses tend to be much cheaper purchased in bulk online, compared to buying as and when you need them from a high street optician or through a regular direct debit arrangement. Most contact lens wearers go for soft lenses, and choose between daily, fortnightly or monthly wear lenses, or continuous wear that can be worn night and day for a month.
When buying online, you’ll need to enter your prescription and the optician’s details where you had your eye test. You can buy contacts in three, six or 12-month packs, and your details are usually stored so it’s easy to repeat your order when you run out.
Tesco and Asda tend to offer the lowest price soft lenses around, from £7 a month for monthly PureVision lenses or £18 for Focus Dailies all-day lenses bought online. This compares to from around £30 a month on the high street.
When buying contacts or glasses online, check the refund policy. Most sites offer a 14-day refund period, but not if you’ve made an error entering your prescription, frame or contact lens choice.
Other ways to save money
- When your prescription changes, it is often assumed you need to buy a new frame but you can just get your new lenses fitted into your existing frame. Glasses Direct and Boots offer this service for £25.
- You can often snag a free second pair of glasses from some high street stores: Specsavers, Dolland and Aitchison, and Boots sometimes offer this deal on selected frames.
- The NHS provides people aged under 16, or 16-19 and in full-time education, with a voucher to help with the cost of their glasses. You can obtain an NHS voucher from your optician when you have a sight test.
- You will also be entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses if you are getting: income support, income-based JobSeeker’s Allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or the guarantee credit part of pension credit. Your partner and children will also be entitled to a voucher.
- If you are getting working tax credit and/or child tax credit, you may be entitled to help, depending on your income.
Child tax credit
A scheme started in 2003 that sought to replace a raft of other tax credits and benefits, the payout depends on the number of dependant children in a family, and its level of income. The amount of credit is reduced as income increases. It is payable to the main carer of a child, usually the mother, and is available whether or not the recipient is working.