I need glasses but cant afford them your options

By Sarah R Reviewed by Nooreen B Edited by Izzy M
Modified on February 27, 2024
i need glasses but can't afford them

Thinking, “I need glasses but can’t afford them?” Vision care and everything it entails can get expensive, making it common for people to search for free glasses and eye exams. While not everyone qualifies for free eye glasses and exams, there are plenty of affordable options for people to consider. 

How Much Do Eye Glasses Cost?

When it comes to eye care, there are more expenses than just the cost of an eye exam.

Depending on the outcome of your eye exam, you may have several other expenses to consider. You may be able to pay these medical costs monthly or all at once. 

Some costs that may come up after your eye exam include: 


Your doctor may inform you that you need glasses. If so, you want to get glasses immediately to start seeing clearly. Not wearing glasses when you need them may make your vision worse and put you and others at risk while driving.

Prices for glasses can range anywhere from $30-$400, sometimes less or more. This broad price range is why it is essential to shop around for glasses and eye care providers when you want the best deal. 

Backup Pair of Glasses

If you need glasses, it may also be a good idea to have a backup pair. Having an extra pair of glasses allows you to change up the style and have a safety pair in case you lose or break your original pair. While some places offer discounts when you buy a second pair of glasses, you may be looking at a similar price range as your first pair.

Contact Lenses (If Needed)

You may choose to wear contact lenses instead of glasses. Contacts give you the benefits of seeing through prescription lenses without having to wear anything on your face. Like glasses, the price range for contacts can also be quite large. You may pay anywhere from $20-$150 for a box of contact lenses. This price may also double if your eyes have two different prescriptions. 

Cases or Other Hardware Protection

Since eye glasses and contacts can get expensive, you want to protect them from daily wear and tear. Fortunately, cases for glasses or contacts are not too expensive as you can typically find quality cases for just a few dollars. 


Protecting your glasses and contacts also includes cleaning them. For eye glasses you want to get a lens-specific cleaner and a soft cloth to prevent scratching. For contact lenses, you will want to get a hydrating solution to store your contacts in. You can purchase eye glasses or contact cleaners at a reasonably low cost from most grocery stores. 

Eye Drops or Other Special Medication

Your eye doctor may also prescribe eye drops or other eye medications for you. While eye drops are just a few dollars at most convenience stores, other eye medications may get more expensive. Before paying full price for eye medication, you may want to check if medical insurance can cover any of the costs. 

How Can You Get Free Eyeglasses and a Free Eye Exam?

One of the most common ways to get free prescription eye glasses and a free eye exam is through insurance coverage. When it comes to insurance offered through an employer, it is up to the individual employer as to whether they want to provide eye care coverage or not. If your workplace does not offer vision coverage, you may be able to find low-cost health insurance that includes vision care. There are also government financial assistance programs that may help you find vision coverage. 

Coverage for vision care is always part of Medicaid for people who are 21 and younger. If you are older than 21, it will depend on where you live if your Medicaid plan includes vision coverage. 

If you have Medicare, you won’t be able to use it for routine eye care unless you have a Medicare Advantage plan. However, you may be able to utilize Medicare coverage for your eye needs if you have: 

  • Cataracts. 
  • Diabetes. 
  • Dry eye. 
  • Glaucoma. 
  • Macular degeneration.

How Free Eye Exams Work

Regular eye exams are essential for overall eye health and to prevent blindness or diseases as you get older. Getting a free eye exam will work virtually the same as getting a regular eye exam. Here’s how it works.

Your eye exam will typically start with a few tests to assess your eyes’ ability to respond to light, depth, and movement. These tests ensure that your eyes respond correctly to certain stimulants and tests for diseases like glaucoma. 

Next, your eye doctor will test your vision with the classic chart of letters and numbers. You will stand about ten feet away from the chart, cover one eye, and do your best to read the letters and numbers displayed on the chart. You will then repeat the process using the opposite eye. 

After that, your eye doctors will take a close-up look at your eyes to make sure everything appears healthy. 

Lastly, your doctor will assess the results of your vision tests and either give you a prescription or inform you that you do not need glasses. 

Places That Provide Free Eye Exams

But what if you don’t have insurance? With the high cost of eye exams and everything they entail, it can seem difficult to afford vision care without insurance. There are a few programs in place that provide low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay for medical care with discounted or free eye care. 

Below is more information about where you may be able to get free eyeglasses and a free eye exam. 

Sight for Students

Sight for Students is a children’s health insurance program that works to provide eye care to children in need. As a non-profit organization, you can donate to the Sight for Students program if you would like to help children in your area gain access to an annual eye exam, prescription glasses, and other necessary eye care. Sight for Students is catered to students who are 18 years and under.

Vision USA Programs 

Vision USA is a program offered through the American Optometric Association and connects people from low-income households to free eye exams. Not every eye doctor is part of this program; you will have to find a participating optometrist if you want to utilize Vision USA programs. These participating local eye doctors may also be able to provide you with free eyeglasses as well! 

Lions Clubs

The Lions Club is a public health program located throughout the United States. While you will have to go to a specific Lions Club location in order to utilize their services, you may be able to access free prescription eyeglasses and exams. 

EyeCare America 

Eye care is particularly important for people who are older in age. EyeCare America caters to these individuals by providing free eye exams to people 65 and older. Keep in mind that you will have to be at risk of glaucoma in order to take advantage of EyeCare America services. Also, EyeCare America solely provides eye exams, so you will have to go elsewhere for proper prescription eyeglasses.

New Eyes

To qualify for services from the New Eyes program, you will have to provide a recommendation from an eye doctor or social worker. The New Eyes program works to provide free eyeglasses to adults and children from low-income families. Unfortunately, New Eyes does not provide free eye exams, just glasses. 

Optometry Schools

There are also Optomotery schools around the country that offer eye exams and discounted or free eyeglasses. While a student may likely perform your exam and determine your prescription, their work will be reviewed and approved by a licensed eye doctor. Going to an Optometry school for eye care can help you save money as well as provide a valuable educational experience for a student! 

Places That Provide Discounted Eye Exams

In order to utilize programs that offer free eyeglasses and eye exams, you typically have to qualify. Sometimes qualification requirements can be strict or challenging to meet. For instance, some programs are only available to families who earn an income that is at or below the current poverty line. 

If you don’t qualify for free exams or glasses, you can take advantage of places that offer exams and eye glasses at a discounted price. Some places you may find a great deal on discounted eye care are:

  • America’s Best
  • Target Optometry Center
  • Vision Center at Walmart
  • Costco or Sam’s Club Vision Center 

How To Pay for Eyeglasses and Vision Care

If insurance isn’t an option for you, you may be worried about paying for eyeglasses or vision care. Nobody wants to deal with unpaid medical bills, so make sure you have a general payment plan in mind when you need to visit the eye doctor. While you may want to stay away from unreliable options like payday loans online, there are several affordable options you may take advantage of when paying for eyeglasses and vision care. They are: 

  • Credit builder installment loans. 
  • Dipping into your savings or emergency fund. 
  • Getting a temporary part-time job. 
  • Selling things you don’t use anymore on eBay, Amazon, or a garage sale. 

Getting Eye Exams and Eyeglasses When You Don’t Have Insurance

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