A visit with the eye doctor

I knew I needed a new prescription for my glasses. Distance was still OK, but I was having trouble reading. I already had progressives (for the under-40 crowd, that means glasses that accommodate for troubles in seeing both near and far) – they just needed to be modified. And sure enough, the results from my eye test indicated that change was in order.

New frames or just new lenses? The inner-battle

New frames or just new lenses? The truth was, I wanted new frames. Mine were getting outdated. The young woman who was helping me navigate the frames on display smoothly slipped in a reference to the ones I was wearing as “old lady glasses.” Ouch! So new frames and new lenses? And the price would be . . . another ouch!

An inner battle started to rage within me. You need new glasses! Just get them. Of course you want them to look good. They go on your face! said one part of my brain

But another part answered back.  She said “old-lady-glasses” just to get you to buy new frames! You don’t need to have the latest style! You’re on a frugal mission to get out of debt, and you have to rise above marketing pressures. Get new lenses and keep the old frames.

Voice #1 came back with, You didn’t like the frames to begin with. You’ll regret the compromise if you stick with the old frames, and you’ll resent your choice. That resentment will just end up sabotaging your frugality in the long term. 

A third region of my brain interjected with, It’s not THAT bad the way it is now, is it? You still see fine for distances, and you can just adjust for reading. Wearing your old frames for a while won’t bring on any resentment if you don’t spend anything on new lenses either.

I managed to work my decision-making faculties into a state of paralysis, and that final voice won the day. I left the optometrists with a new prescription, and the same old frames and lenses, feeling an uncertain sense of victory for my frugal move. I was no marketer’s pawn! More money to put against the debt! And I could tough out the sight thing. Hmmm….

That was my eye doctor visit. In 2013.

As the months went by, it became more and more difficult for me to read with my glasses on. Eventually, I got into the habit of taking them off to read books, newspapers, and magazines. This is a bit odd, I realized. But it worked.

There was a gradual change in my ability to read on a computer screen too. “You look so serious. Is something wrong?” asked a colleague one day as I checked my e-mails. “No,” I answered. “I’m just focused.” I had to hold my head at unnatural angles to be able to make out the words in front of me. My neck started to bother me.

This past summer, I realized that I had allowed things to go too far. I needed new glasses! And my frames, now even more outdated than they had been two years earlier, would have to go. No indecision. No opposing voices battling in my brain. I was moving forward with single-mindedness. I would just have to wait until November for an appointment. Ugh!

I asked to be contacted in the case of a cancellation, and October 2nd, I had my appointment. Not surprisingly, my prescription had changed yet again. I selected the frames I liked best – the very ones I had considered two years earlier. The price was high, but I knew it would be. Measurements taken, details decided upon, order made. Mission accomplished. I’d just have to wait for two weeks until the new glasses came in.

Shock and an eye-opener

This month, I’ve been struck by the speed at which the days have been shortening in nature’s march towards winter. It happens every year, but somehow, it has seemed more dramatic a change than usual this time around. Dark so early in the evening. Dark when I start my day.

This past Tuesday, I was in my car by 7:00 am. Light rain made conditions less than ideal. A little slippery. Overcast skies combined with my rain-splattered windshield and shimmering, light-reflecting roads to create poor visibility. The red traffic light seemed to last forever as I waited to make my left-hand turn. Finally green. I put my foot on the gas and steered – until an umbrella waved urgently in front of me. Hit the brakes! Through a mind fog, I became aware of indistinct words flying out of the mouth of the angry man who had appeared out of nowhere in front of my car. The moment passed, and I drove on in shock. I had almost hit him!

My face said it all when I came into work. I told the first two colleagues I saw about my near miss. “I just did not see him,” I explained, still absorbing the horror of what could have been. And what was their response? One of them asked, “Is the prescription for your glasses outdated?”

“Yes!” I answered – horrified again – at how obvious a mistake I had been making. I just didn’t tell him how outdated. “In fact, I’m getting new glasses this week.”

If I had made another choice after my visit with the eye doctor in 2013, would I have seen that man walking across the dark, rainy street under his umbrella two years later? If I had bought the new lenses – with or without new frames – would the visibility of the morning have been as bad as my experience of it was? Thank God it didn’t turn out worse!

I picked up my new glasses two days later – on Thursday after work. The difference is pretty significant. I can read both print on paper and digital text on screens without difficulty. Distances are sharper too. Only a few people have noticed the different look of the glasses, and while there might be a moral in that story, I’m still happier with what I see in the mirror.

As I continue on this journey out of debt, I believe I’ll be wiser in my application of frugality. There are times to say “No.” There are times to say “Not yet.” But there are also times when the best thing to do is to make the purchase. I won’t forget the shock of that umbrella waving me to a sudden stop any time soon. Another lesson learned. A real eye-opener.

Have you ever misapplied frugality? Have you ever experienced the shock of an accident – or a near-miss? Your comments are welcome?


Join the Conversation


  1. As my favorite comedian, Brian Regan, says “How can instantly improved vision not be at the top of your to-do list?” Hilarious skit with a heavy dose of wisdom. The guy with the umbrella, though. Was he wearing light clothing? Or was part of this his own fault for being out on a dark, rainy morning in dark clothing/umbrella? ‘Cuz if so, you aren’t totally to blame and it still may have happened, even with the new prescription. So glad you’re seeing better! I only started needing reading glasses a couple of years ago. The eye doctor told me I just needed the 100 magnifiers. Now I’m using the 150’s. I think I’ll make another appointment before I end up at 200. I do have trouble reading small print and the computer screen sometimes. Thanks for the reminder! And by the way, I still want to blame umbrella man! 😉

    1. I can’t trust my memory completely, but I’d say that he was wearing dark clothing. Somehow when there’s a rainfall, dark clothing just blends in with the general darkness. Thanks, Kay, but if I had hit him, I don’t think that his poor choice of clothing would have offered me any comfort. Bright clothing. Up-to-date prescription for glasses. 2 take-aways : )

  2. Yep, prescription glasses/contacts always get put off around here. I tend to put it off until it’s getting to be huge problem. Which means I’m not necessarily shopping sales. It’s pretty short-sighted… Which is appropriate, given my myopia.

      1. Exta thin AND progressives? Even more painful. (I meant it when I said, “ouch!”)

    1. Abigail, I think that with glasses, you really have to like the way they look. What impacts your appearance more than something that goes on your face? That being the case, I don’t think the “sale” factor is even important. Something you like that you can see out of – I say that’s what matters. (And good use of a pun there!)

  3. Well if it makes you feel any better I’m sure that sort of thing (with the man and the umbrella) could happen to anyone with or without great vision. I have definitely cut corners to save money and have had it come back and bite me in the you know what. Mostly on buying price instead of quality…especially when that item is vital for something, like work.

    1. Thank you for saying it, Tonya. There are times when “on sale” doesn’t really matter. As long as you’re really thinking about it and spending money on what you need – not wasting it on impulse wants – quality can trump price. Not always, but sometimes – like when you’re buying something to wear on your face so that you can see : )

  4. Oh, man, yes. The largest area is health, too! When it’s something you’re not carrying insurance for it’s the worst. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t carrying any, and I got sick. I tried to brave it out as the doctor was too expensive. Three days later I nearly passed out at work. I had let it go so long it complicated and took me out for a week. Luckily nothing worse happened. We now carry insurance as tax penalties have gone up to the point where it would be more expensive not to have it. It’s an absolutely insane monthly bill, but does get me to the doctor when I’m not feeling well.

    1. I hope that you’re 100% now FF! As a Canadian, I’m always a little shocked to hear about the expense of health insurance in the U.S. Our taxes are higher though – largely because of our “free” medicare. I’m glad you’re better insured now. Hopefully that expense is buying you peace of mind as well as visits to the doctor.

  5. Under those conditions early morning, rain, etc I’m sure the near miss with the man and the umbrella could happen to just about anyone. We are a family with of 5 with 3 eye glass wearers. We get regular check ups once a year. We take our prescriptions to Costco and save a good deal of money on new glasses.

    1. We have a Costco membership too, and while I thought of going that route, I just felt better sticking with the service provided by my doctor’s office. It probably wasn’t necessary – an irrational, anxious bias on my part. Next time, I will give Costco more consideration. Thanks, Brian.

  6. Other than putting off car maintenance (which we are notoriously bad at, for reasons other than frugality (sloth)), I have a few examples mostly relating to medical/dental related things.

    However, one of the worst misapplications of frugality is that two November’s ago, my husband wanted to buy wrist warmers and shoe guards for his bike ride to work. I told him I would be okay using our car funds for it, but I didn’t know where else the money would come from. He dithered and didn’t end up buying them until January which resulted in Chillblains that lasted the whole winter.

    1. Interesting that you point out “sloth” and “dithering” as causes for delayed purchases. I can definitely relate. I wonder if your husband’s “dithering” was exacerbated by his desire to be frugal? In any case, he’s a hardcore badass for cycling through the winter! Gotta respect that.

      1. Both he and I are guilty of sloth masquerading as frugality. We’re a bit better now that we’ve discovered buying things online, but neither of us likes to take the car in for routine maintenance or repairs.

    1. But have you ever had the experience of spending less – or spending nothing – thinking that it was wisely frugal – and then realizing you should have spent the money needed?

  7. Yeah, I’ve learned the hard way that mechanical issues never fix themselves:)
    On a eye glasses note, we found that Costco had some great frames and lens for lower prices!

    1. Nice to meet you Alex. Thanks for your comment : )
      I think I’m going to have to give Costco a try next time around. It was strong force of habit that made me reluctant this time.

  8. I used to HATE that time of year when the Pizel family would pack up the van and go the eye doctor. Sure, we have insurance that will cover X amount for frames, and Y amount on lenses….but it always seems that the frames are always more, and certain members of the family have prescriptions that cause the cost to go over the allocated amount.

    Not anymore……

    Due to the skyrocketing price of medical care, last year I looked into other options….and I am SO glad I did. We went with at high deductible medical plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA). We’re not a family that goes to the doctor often anyway, so i thought it might work out. The plan was $250 a month less than what we paid last year…so $250 a month is what I chose for our monthly HSA contribution. Essentially we’re paying exactly the same monthly for our medical care…except $250 a month goes into an account. PLUS my employer had $1600 in incentives I could earn. Now, everytime we (infrequently) need to go to the doctor, there’s ZERO out of pocket expenses, because i just pay with my HSA account….which in previous years would have gone to waste each month towards higher priced insurance. Guess what else we can use our HSA dollars for? Glasses. In 2015, we went to the doctor a couple of times for illnesses, all had preventative visits (covered 100%) AND got our eyewear for ZERO out of pocket expense. PLUS we’re going to end the year with over $3000 in our HSA that I can invest and have grow, or use for other medical expenses.

    Man, I wish I would have known how HSA’s worked earlier…….but….one of those things nobody teaches – you have to find out for yourself.

    1. Some people will learn by reading your comment, Travis : ) American readers take note!
      I have some coverage through my work, but it’s similar to what your pre-HSA coverage sounds like. It definitely won’t cover it all. (Still waiting for the reimbursement.)

    1. “Scary” and “wrong” – how have we talked ourselves into thinking this way? I think we’re so used to doubting our judgement when it comes to spending that even when it’s right, we still question ourselves.

  9. Another common way I have seen frugality misapplied is sacrificing quality in the long run to save a little in the near-term. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that being frugal does not mean not buying something or automatically buying the least expensive good or service. In my mind, practicing frugality means taking the time to do your research to determine which products and services will give you the best bang for your buck; and constantly evaluating if the products and services you normally buy are delivering quality on a consistent basis.

    There are times when that will mean buying something when perhaps you would rather not, buying the least expensive product or service; or buying a more expensive product or service that just happens to be a well-known brand.

    1. I think that many people, especially those who know they have a bad history in money management, doubt their ability to “determine which products and services will give the best bang” for their buck. So the knee-jerk reaction is “Don’t buy” or “Buy as cheap as possible” – because at least that can be called “frugal.” A little development in confidence is needed for some of us to get to the point where we can do as you suggest.

  10. We definitely put off going to the eye doctor for a new prescription, but mostly because we are still young and our prescriptions have never significantly changed. I don’t know if this works for progressives, but I’ve scored great deals on designer frames with prescription lenses from online sites. If you find something you like in the store you can look for it cheaper elsewhere.

    I misapplied frugality by hiring my photography-student roommate to do my wedding photos. She was talented but lacked the proper equipment. But at least we have photos and it’s not an area that really affects our quality of life.

    I’m glad you stayed safe and took the wake up call!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kalie. I know someone else who went with a friend for her wedding photographer – and it was a big disappointment. I’m glad you say it doesn’t impact your quality of life – but good to remember that sometimes, you really do get what you’ve paid for. I think that being out of my element in the online world, I’m somewhat reluctant to shop online. Got to get over that!

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