How To Get Cheap Prescription Glasses As A Student

On the lookout for some cheap prescription glasses? Here's how to cut the costs as a student...

Written byHolly Barrow
Published on
Read time7 min read

There are few things more frustrating than having to fork out on expensive necessities, especially when it’s something like prescription glasses - we didn’t choose to have problems with our eyesight, did we?!

That being said, you’ll be pleased to hear there are actually a whole host of ways you can get cheap prescription glasses as a student, and this doesn’t mean having to sacrifice on quality! 

But before diving into exactly how you can get cheap glasses, you’ll first want to make sure that you understand your prescription and what this means in terms of the overall cost of your glasses.


Understanding your glasses prescription 

While it’s important that you have your eyes tested once every two years, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to get a new prescription each time you want to purchase some glasses. 

Your prescription will be valid for two years after your eye test (in most cases), meaning you don’t necessarily need to have your eyes tested again before purchasing a new pair of specs! 

If you’re approaching the two-year mark however, we’d definitely advise booking an eye test first as this could save you money in the long run. The more up to date your prescription, the more likely you are to get plenty of wear out of your glasses. 

You won’t always have to pay for an eye test either - a number of opticians offer free eye tests, such as Ace & Tate, while others run occasional promotions such as Tesco Opticians. 

How to read a glasses prescription


While it’s not essential to understand the ins and outs of your prescription, it’s good to have an overall understanding of what it means. 

When given your prescription, you’ll most likely see the following information: 

  • Sphere (SPH)

  • Cylinder (CYL)

  • Axis 

  • Prism

  • Pupillary Distance 

What is 'Sphere' on an eye prescription?

The ‘Sphere’ value will include a + or – sign followed by a number. The ‘+’ sign indicates that you’re long-sighted, meaning you struggle to see things close to you. This may mean you have difficulty reading or working on a computer - essentially anything up close. 

A ‘–’ sign indicates that you’re short-sighted, meaning you struggle to see things further away. Think about being in those lecture theatres - if you’re struggling to see the projector, it’s time to get an eye test! 

The number after the sign indicates the severity of your long-sightedness or short-sightedness, and these are given in 0.25 increments. The lower the number, the milder your prescription. 

The strength of your prescription can impact the overall cost of your glasses due to how the lenses are made. Higher prescription glasses typically require higher index lenses, which are more difficult to manufacture and can therefore come at a higher cost. 

What is 'Cylinder' on an eye prescription?


The ‘Cylinder’ value indicates whether you have astigmatism or not, which is another factor that can impact how expensive your prescription glasses may be. Astigmatism happens when your cornea or lens has a different shape than normal, so if you see a value in this section of your prescription, it suggests your eyes are not completely spherical and are more oval shaped and that you therefore have a certain level of astigmatism. 

As with the level of your long-sightedness or short-sightedness, the degree of astigmatism can impact the cost of your prescription glasses. If you have a higher level of astigmatism, your glasses may be more costly due to the materials required. 

How to get cheap prescription glasses in the UK 

So now you have a better understanding of your prescription, how can you get your hands on some good quality glasses without breaking the bank?

Get cheap prescription glasses online 

Online prescription glasses

One way to cut costs is to shop for your glasses online. You’ll usually find that it costs less to purchase prescription glasses online than it does in-store - and don’t be fooled into thinking you have to purchase glasses with whichever opticians you visited for your eye test! 

There are plenty of reliable, trustworthy online eyewear retailers out there, including the likes of Glasses Direct, Glasses2You, Spex4Less and more, selling super cheap prescription glasses glasses from as little as £9.97. 

Get student discount on glasses

If you’d rather purchase your prescription glasses with some of the bigger retailers out there - such as Specsavers, Vision Express and Boots Opticians - it’s well worth taking advantage of your student discount! 

You can make huge savings with your TOTUM student discount card, allowing you to enjoy money off when you shop. TOTUM members can currently get 20% off glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses at Vision Express, as well as saving 25% on all Specsavers glasses from £69 and above, including designer styles from £99. Just show your TOTUM card in-store to take advantage of your Specsavers student discount.

If you’re on the lookout for some cheap prescription sunglasses, you can also bag yourself a bargain by getting 15% off at Sunglass Hut and 20% off at Oakley

So what we’re saying is, don’t underestimate the savings you can make with your student discount! 

Consider the frame materials of your prescription glasses 

Glasses frames

Generally speaking, the frames of your glasses are the most expensive part, so if you’re on the hunt for affordable prescription glasses it’s worth considering the type of frame material you’re opting for. 

Plastic frames are likely to be cheaper than most metal frames, however they often have no nose pads making them less custom adjustable if they do slip down your nose, nor are they as pliable as metal frames. 

Acetate frames are often considered higher quality than plastic frames however this will be reflected in the price tag, so it depends on your own personal budget. 

Opt for basic lenses when purchasing your prescription glasses 

When purchasing prescription glasses, the cost of lenses can significantly impact the overall price. Consider starting with basic lenses and add upgrades later if needed. Many online retailers offer additional features such as anti-glare coatings or blue-light blocking at lower prices compared to in-store. 

Look out for in-store promotions 


While online shopping can often be a great way to find affordable prescription glasses, don’t overlook in-store sales and promotions! Local opticians or chain stores occasionally offer promotions that can significantly reduce the cost of prescription glasses. Look out for buy-one-get-one-free offers, seasonal sales, or discounts for first-time customers.

Consider second-hand frames

If you’re a fan of shopping second-hand, why not keep your eyes peeled for some second-hand glasses frames? Check out online marketplaces such as Depop and Vinted, as well as local charity shops and vintage stalls to find some affordable, quality frames at a low cost, and then you can simply pay to have the lenses replaced with your prescription lenses! 

If you love designer glasses, shopping for second-hand designer frames is a great way to get your hands on luxury glasses without the steep price tag. 


Make DIY adjustments and repairs

Finally, before writing off a pair of glasses and replacing them due to minor issues, consider making adjustments or repairs at home. Many minor issues can be fixed using simple tools or DIY repair kits, saving you the cost of a new pair.

For more useful money-saving tips and advice as a student, check out our other guides:

NOTE: This article contains affiliate links, which will earn the site a commission if the product is purchased.

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