Cheap glasses: A review of Warby ParkerI’ve got a unique fashion muse. It’s not Beyoncé or Audrey Hepburn or Alexa Chung.

It’s my boyfriend’s dad.

The man has the coolest glasses. And I’ve been inspired by his round, Harold Lloyd frames for a while now. I decided to steal his look treat myself and shop for a pair of my own.   

In the search for signature specs, I looked at the ridiculously cheap glasses options I wrote about a few months ago. Indeed, you can find some great frames online for under $50. (I’ve found some for under $25.)

Unfortunately, this time I couldn’t find any frames that I really liked. Maybe because I had a specific style in mind. In that cheap glasses post, Andrew at Living Rich Cheaply mentioned Warby Parker as another affordable option. I’d heard of them, so I decided to check them out. Here’s my experience, including how much I spent, total, on my new frames.

Here’s a video review, too, if you don’t feel like reading. Also, subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

What’s Warby Parker?

Probably the coolest thing about Warby Parker is their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. You can read about it here, but here’s the program, in their words:

It’s a sticky fact of life that kind-hearted gestures can have unintended consequences. Donating is often a temporary solution, not a lasting one. It can contribute to a culture of dependency. It is rarely sustainable.

Instead of donating, our partners train men and women to sell glasses for ultra-affordable prices, which allows them to earn a living. More important, it forces our partners to offer glasses that people actually want to buy: glasses that fit with local styles, look good, work well, and make the wearer feel incredible.

Here are some other facts you should know about the company:

• They’re affordable: Most frames are $95, with the lenses. Shipping is free in the “contiguous US.” Meaning, if you live in Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico, you’ve got to pay $15.

• They only ship to the U.S. and Canada: Unfortunately, they don’t offer international shipping.

• They look good: 90% of the time I compliment someone’s glasses, they tell me they’re from Warby Parker.

• They’re mostly online: Unless you live in NYC, LA or Boston, you can’t go into a Warby Parker store and try on the frames. The good news is, they have a home try-on program. You can pick out five frames you like, they’ll ship them to you, and you have five days to try them out. It’s 100% free, and they give you a box to ship them back.

• They’ve got a good return policy: You have 30-days to return, no questions asked. If your lenses get scratched within the first year, they’ll replace them for free.

Costco Eye Exam Cost: $50

On to my adventure. I couldn’t find my old eye prescription, but I needed a new one, anyway. My prescription started to feel strong. Too strong. It was like, over the past couple of years, my eyesight improved or something. Is that even possible? I have no idea, I’m too lazy to Google it. But every time I put on my glasses, I got a little woozy.

My plan was to head to the Warby Parker store in West Hollywood, where I could try on a perfect pair of glasses I found online. Some Warby Parker storefronts offer eye exams; the one in Los Angeles doesn’t. So I had to hunt for an affordable option. Enter Costco.

Costco offers eye exams for $50, no membership required. I made an appointment for Saturday at noon, and I was in-and-out within 30 minutes, despite their insanely crowded parking lot. The doctor was great; I told him about my headaches, and he confirmed that my old prescription was probably too strong. He gave me a new prescription and sent me on my way.

Cost of Frames & Lenses: $95

LA’s Warby Parker store is inside the Standard Hotel. I parked in the neighborhood and walked into the small storefront. It wasn’t too crowded, and the staff was helpful and friendly enough. They left me alone, and I was free to roam their selection on my own. I found those perfect glasses I’d seen online. But upon trying them on, they were a little larger than I expected. Which was surprising, because I have a pretty big head.

Actually, they looked pretty different than they did when I used the virtual try-on tool. But those virtual try-on tools are never perfect. And, anyway, I ended up trying on a different pair of glasses that I loved, priced at $95. I gave the employee my prescription, they emailed me my receipt, and I was in and out of the store in 15 minutes.

My grand total for new glasses: $145. If you already have a prescription, you’ll likely only spend $95. This is a lot less than I’ve paid in the past, but it’s also a lot more than glasses I’ve paid using discount sites like Goggles4U.

I have to say, though–I really, really love these glasses. They’re quality frames, and I’ll probably have them for years.  (Note: if your prescription is a little more complex, the cost may be a bit more. This is true with most places, though.)

If you’re looking for a regular pair of cheap glasses and you’re not partial to any particular style, I’d recommend going the budget route. But Warby Parker seems to be a great balance of style, quality and price.

Plus, your purchase goes to a good cause, and that’s always a good thing.

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Kristin writes and makes videos about money, the economy, travel, and more. You can find her stuff at Lifehacker, Two Cents, Mentalfloss, and more. Check out her blog, TheWildWong.com.