The Cadillac of eyeglasses?
December 10, 2011 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Help me spend a lot of money on eyeglasses! Due to the somewhat ridiculous way my health insurance works, I have $1000 in a health savings account and three weeks to spend it or lose it. I've decided to buy the world's awesomest pair of glasses. Help me figure out what constitutes the Cadillac of eyeglasses and how I would go about getting such glasses. Also, can you recommend a place to get them in New York?

I don't want to spend money for the sake of spending money, so anything fancy should actually serve some purpose. It can be either a vision-correcting purpose or an aesthetic purpose. For instance, I'd be delighted to spend more money for thinner lenses. I've generally got crappy glasses at Lenscrafters in the past, and I don't even really know what I should be looking for.

Vital stats: I'm very nearsighted in one eye (-10 range) and somewhat nearsighted in the other (-5 range.) I've got very mild astigmatism in my bad eye. I'm female, if that matters.

I'll be in New York next week and can buy my glasses there. It's ok if it takes more than three weeks to make them. I just need to pay for them before January 1st.
posted by craichead to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (50 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If I had a huge budget for eyeglasses and was in New York, I'd head straight to Moscot.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:48 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get the super duper awesome thin lenses, they're some sort of polycarbonate and the last thing I heard them quoted, it was $500

If you like vintage glasses, Fabulous Frannie's (IIRC) is in the East Village and sells vintage frames.
posted by zug at 10:48 PM on December 10, 2011

I don't know where to get the awesome glasses in NYC, but I would also consider getting the awesome prescription sunglasses too. $1,000 is a lot to have to spend on a medical savings account. I would even mention the dilemma with your primary care physician to see if there are any tests you might want to schedule such as a full body scan or blood work or something that you could use your HSA for.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:50 PM on December 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Over the counter medicine also counts, usually. In my state at least. Stock up on all the tussin and unisom you'll ever need!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:51 PM on December 10, 2011

Crizal lenses will eat up a good chunk and be totally worth it!
posted by batmonkey at 10:52 PM on December 10, 2011

Response by poster:
Over the counter medicine also counts, usually.
It actually doesn't anymore. It did until last year, but they changed the rules for 2011. (And the rules are determined by the Feds, I believe, not by individual states.)

Don't get me started on the stupidity of HSA rules. For instance, they don't cover preventative care, so you can get your gym membership paid for if you already have a medical problem that requires you to exercise exercise but not if you go to the gym to try not to develop medical problems. So stupid.
posted by craichead at 11:02 PM on December 10, 2011

Yikes, well, thank you for correcting me! Sorry for the incorrect advice! I don't have HSA set up at this new job I have so my info was from 2009.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:03 PM on December 10, 2011

could get a nice pair of prescription sunglasses for next summer, too. easier to blow a grand on two or three pairs of glasses than on just one.
posted by facetious at 11:07 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

TEN warby parker glasses! (I got an account just to say this... I do not work for them.) Possibly more helpful would be that super long New Yorker article on buying expensive glasses in NYC... if you can find a way to view the article, it's worth it. It lovingly describes most expensive eyewear shops in the city, Moscot included.
posted by citizenface at 11:10 PM on December 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I loved my Silhouettes. They were made of sone exotic alloy and did not have hinges or screws to loosen and pick up grime.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:12 PM on December 10, 2011

Moscot glasses make me absurdly happy.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:45 PM on December 10, 2011

Invest in high index (thin) glass lenses with anti refractive coating - after which, see which frames work best within the budget.
posted by infini at 12:02 AM on December 11, 2011

For cool expensive glasses you want LA Eyeworks. There's an online store here, but I'm sure you could email (the 'where to buy' link) to see if they have any NYC stockists.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 12:18 AM on December 11, 2011

Oliver Peoples!!!!

They have a boutique here in NYC. I like the "Mogul" style, but they are absolutely the best.
posted by devymetal at 12:48 AM on December 11, 2011

If you can't spend huge on frames and lenses, spend huge on lenses. (I've been wearing glasses for about 35 years.)
posted by ambient2 at 1:01 AM on December 11, 2011

selima optique has great, unique frames.
posted by violetk at 1:08 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like you, I had flex-spend to use or lose. I bought a pair of Dore frames from Theo. Along with the super-thin lenses with coatings, it came to a bit under $900. Along with being beautiful, the arms are spring-bound, which makes the arms a bit more difficult to bend and break. On the flip side, the bridge is a bit thin and feels like a weak point that could give if I put too much force on it. But they are beautiful frames that I wouldn't have found online, and I'm very happy with them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:44 AM on December 11, 2011

Robert Marc, anything with buffalo horn frames.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:25 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mom recently told me that she splashed out on an expensive, lengthy eye exam from a really good opthamologist--it took hours and cost I don't know how much--and she said the glasses she got out of it were a revelation. She got that "Oh my God, I can see!" feeling that you get when you get glasses for the first time, all over again.

Her prescription is a little complicated though, basic nearsightedness plus astigmatism plus now needing bifocals, so I could imagine that the payoff might not be as big if your prescription is simpler.
posted by bluebird at 3:01 AM on December 11, 2011

non US-ian here, so I don't really know how these things work, but... what sort of money does corrective laser eye surgery cost? Wouldn't that amount pretty get you at least an eye done? Then all you need's a decent monocle. (I joke, I joke). But you could set yourself on the path of not needing spectacles any more. (Or just wearing ones with lenses that do nothing, to continue to project your handsome, bookish, professorial look)...
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 3:11 AM on December 11, 2011

Sunglasses are totally, totally worth it. And personally I'm a huge fan of having a pair or two of backup glasses; my current backups are from Zenni but if I had money to burn I'd totally have a nice backup pair. (Right now I'm wearing the Zenni glasses because the glasses I bought nine months ago had defective lens coating and are being returned under the warranty for replacement lenses -- and those were the super-high-index, top of the line glasses, albeit in cheap frames. You can never tell when you'll need a backup pair!)
posted by pie ninja at 4:38 AM on December 11, 2011

I have Lindberg eyeglasses and love them. On my other frames, the hinges would always need tightening - Lindberg glasses have a screw-free hinge. Plus they are incredibly light, flexible, and sturdy. Agree with getting a pair of sunglasses as well. I'm nearsighted as well and tend to wear my sunglasses more than my eyeglasses.
posted by bCat at 4:59 AM on December 11, 2011

If it were me, I'd go for Oliver People's too. They/He (?) makes the only glasses I've ever tried on that really, really looked good.

But first I'd read the "New Yorker" article citizenface linked. To do that for free, pull out your library card. Find your library's site online. And use your card's number (you may have to call and get one if you've never done this) and your pin number to log into your user account. Once "in," as a matter of course, most libraries provide links to articles in all the major magazines, a month or two old, and then going back for several years.
posted by Violet Blue at 5:27 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you wear bifocals or progressives? Check out emPower. They're the time-traveling DeLorean of eyeglasses!
posted by apparently at 5:33 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

No pair of glasses is worth $1000. None. Never. That's absurd. All you are paying for is fashion, and the incremental increase in fashionableness between $500 and $1000 is a sucker's bet unless you are a proud member of the 1%.

You can get the best quality lenses in the world for a couple of hundred bucks -- high index, impact resistant, scratch coated, UV protected, the works. You'd be much better off buying 3 or 4 or 5 pairs, maybe some sunglasses, etc. Given what glasses cost at retail, you'd be set for a couple of years maybe. (Although as a convert to buying online, I have been super happy for the last few years with my sub-$100 high index, UV and scratch coated lenses in perfectly serviceable frames -- they are all made in China anyway, no matter how much you pay. Retail storefronts selling glasses are one of the great ripoff industries in the US, mostly due to the monopoly control over the major chains by one company.)

Don't feed the beast by doing something so silly. No one will know if your glasses cost $1000 or $250, least of all your own eyes.

One of the best things you can do, and you may still have time, is to go get dental work done. $1000 is nothing for even minor cosmetic work. Any prescription meds you can stock up on? You can even buy an air conditioner if you've been diagnosed with allergies (and they are a good value this time of year). And are you sure you've already covered all your deductible/out of pocket health care costs from the year?
posted by spitbull at 5:43 AM on December 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

I see someone mentioned Zenni above. I was dubious at first too, but once I found the right styles in their collection, I've bought all my glasses from them for the last 3 or 4 years. I have never been less than happy, and I have sometimes been thrilled (my current $100 sunglasses from them are my favorite pair of shades ever, and I had to go for their very best lenses to get to that figure).

I've owned Oliver Peoples glasses before. Overrated in the extreme. They used some kind of gold plating on the frames I bought that turned grey/green within a year at the temples, and when I went in to complain they told me it was supposed to happen.
posted by spitbull at 5:47 AM on December 11, 2011

$200 won't even come close to getting you a nice pair of designer glasses... I spent well over $300 a decade ago on lenses+frame branded by Emanuel Ungaro (unfortunately they left the glasses business), and they didn't even have features like anti-glare ( I think the bulk of the cost was the frame).
posted by Yowser at 6:01 AM on December 11, 2011

Be sure to submit the claim and to turn in your receipts before the end of the year, if it's that type of account. I had a similar situation, and I submitted the receipts a few days after the new year, and they disallowed my claim because the expense and the claim had to be in the same calendar year.
posted by brownrd at 6:02 AM on December 11, 2011

That shouldn't be true. I believe federal law requires that you have until March 1 to submit claims for the prior year (the expenses have to be in the prior year, of course). Do be sure to check with your benefits officer or claims processing company.
posted by spitbull at 6:06 AM on December 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

With a $1,000 budget you might want to think about buying two pairs of glasses instead of one. JohnnyGunn's suggestion to get a nice pair of prescription sunglasses is good, but you could also just get a second pair of regular prescription glasses (pimped out with super-thin lenses, of course!) so that you can change up your look. It's also great to have a spare pair in case one breaks or gets lost.
posted by TheCavorter at 6:08 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

And the no-name cheap frames are deliberately made to look terrible on purpose, so you're forced to buy those $5 frames for $300. I didn't make the world, I'm only forced to live in it.
posted by Yowser at 6:09 AM on December 11, 2011

I agree with spitbull; I'm almost positive you have until March 2012 to spend your 2011 HSA. Call your HR people before you do anything rash!
posted by kestrel251 at 7:11 AM on December 11, 2011

A few years ago I bought some ic! berlin eyeglass frames. They're not the most expensive, but they are stamped out of sheet steel, so they're very thin and light. They also have an ingenious way of fitting together at the hinge so they do not require screws.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:47 AM on December 11, 2011

Buy 100 pairs from Zenni. Or, find some kids who are underprivileged and get several of them pairs.
posted by thylacine at 7:52 AM on December 11, 2011

I wanted to come in to second ic! berlin frames. If you got a pair of those with the highest-end, thinnest lenses possible and a pair of prescription sunglasses you'd probably come in around $1000. I have two pairs of ic! berlin and I love them. Because they are so light and how they hinge together, they are the only glasses I have ever encountered that (1) stay on my face, but (2) absolutely do not cause any soreness around my ears, even after a 16+ hour day of wearing them. Really astonishing glasses.
posted by ohio at 8:03 AM on December 11, 2011

Response by poster:
Or, find some kids who are underprivileged and get several of them pairs.
Sadly, that's a violation of federal law, or that's exactly what I'd do.

My optometrist, who is a big-shot academic optometrist associated with a medical practice and not a glasses store (and yes, apparently such a thing exists) was violently opposed to the idea of buying glasses online, but I think I may buy a back-up pair from Zenni, just because I'm curious. In general, though, I'm pretty hard to fit properly, and I'd like to try them on in person. I apparently have the world's narrowest face at the temples. Who knew?
I agree with spitbull; I'm almost positive you have until March 2012 to spend your 2011 HSA.
Looks like you're right!
posted by craichead at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2011

Definitely buy more than one pair of glasses. Having multiple nice pairs of glasses is super-luxurious.
posted by mskyle at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2011

Just to bring the pedantic, you don't have a HSA, you have an FSA, a Flexible Spending Account. Health Savings Accounts are not use-it-or-lose-it.

I suppose I should say HSAs are not use-it-or-lose-it here in MN and haven't been for the five or so years under two employers I've had one, while FSAs have always been.
posted by chazlarson at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2011

Since someone mentioned it, cosmetic dental is NOT an allowed use of FSA dollars.
posted by peep at 10:54 AM on December 11, 2011

I've been really happy with my Kio Yamato frames. They're a bit of a boutique brand, so try the indie optical stores (i.e., not Lenscrafters or whatever). They're not the most expensive frames (or the cheapest), but I've been wearing mine for about four years (with lens replaced once) and they've held up very well. Get some super high-index lenses with anti-scratch coating and that should get you most of the way there to using your FSA money.
posted by calistasm at 12:31 PM on December 11, 2011

My Kio Yamatos are still framing my face 5yrs later, with nary a loose screw nor unbalanced stem, so I'll readily second their awesomeness.
posted by batmonkey at 3:05 PM on December 11, 2011

I dunno how successful this would be, but get two pairs of glasses: one for you, one to sell on eBay. Spend a "normal" amount on yours, and sell the really expensive glasses. Take the cash and party/give away to charity/do whatever.

I have no idea if it's allowed to sell prescription glasses on eBay.
posted by zardoz at 4:08 PM on December 11, 2011

Response by poster:
I dunno how successful this would be, but get two pairs of glasses: one for you, one to sell on eBay. Spend a "normal" amount on yours, and sell the really expensive glasses. Take the cash and party/give away to charity/do whatever.
Yeah, again, that's a crime. I can only use this money to buy things for me. The things have to be on a list of medically-related expenses that are eligible for tax deductions. You can see that list here if you're curious.
posted by craichead at 4:38 PM on December 11, 2011

Thirding ic! berlins. Absolutely love my frames. I don't care that I spent $800 for lenses and frames. They'll be on my face 16 hours a day for the next 2-4 years. Totally worth the cost.

I also have prescription Maui Jim sunglasses that I'm very happy with.
posted by Jacob G at 7:20 PM on December 11, 2011

I've shopped at Moscot and have found the staff to be really unfriendly. Ignore-you-when-you-ask-questions and refuse-to-open-cases-unless-you-hand-over-your-prescription-form-to-hold-you-hostage unfriendly.

So while they have a large selection of frames (and apparently grind good lenses), I have never bought from them.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:31 PM on December 11, 2011

4thing ic! berlin. Being stamped out of a sheet means my thick lenses look a lot thinner, as the frame meets them in the middle, rather than the front.
posted by cogat at 1:05 AM on December 12, 2011

If your prescription is mostly stable, spend it on lenses. If it is still changing, spend it on good frames. You can have the frames re-lensed- there is a cam-like thing that goes into the lens cutting machine that cuts the lens to the right proportions. My eye doctor keeps all the cams from every pair of glasses I've ever had in my little file envelope so my frames can be relensed if necessary.
posted by gjc at 7:13 AM on December 12, 2011

I am not certain that they sell these in NYC, but for what it's worth, I love my Swissflex frames.
They are super light and stylish.
posted by whereismyrobot at 8:30 AM on December 20, 2011

To spend money on lenses - I have near-sightedness with astigmatism, and this is what I get - plastic lenses, scratch free coating, transitions (a polychromatic coating that darkens depending on the light level) That alone costs me about $300 dollars. Add the exam ($45-90) and the frames, and you'll be pretty far along.
To spend money on frames - Titanium frames last forever and cost a pretty penny. I've had mine for five years now, and they're still in perfect condition.
posted by mezzanote at 9:43 AM on December 20, 2011

I had the same issue with FSA account (I had $600 left) so I bought a new eyeglasses (already had one) and spent leftover money on FSA approved items (ex. Band-Aids, First Aid boxes, etc.) without prescriptions. had a dedicated section for FSA approved items and this is where I dropped nearly $300 on everything from my mothers' denture creams to extra First Aid boxes for my sister:

If you are only interested in eyewear, I agree with people who says get multiple glasses. You can probably get a pretty nice one and get a prescription sunglasses too.

Good luck spending those 'use-or-lose' dollars!
posted by flowerpig at 10:02 PM on December 20, 2011

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