Weekly Roundup: Designer Sunglasses Worth It?

I suspect you knew my answer before reading this one. Clearly, I do not think designer sunglasses are worth the price. In fact, I normally buy fairly cheap sunglasses because, given my history with sunglasses, they have a high likelihood of being sat on, dropped from my head or otherwise crushed before the end of summer. At least when this happens I only feel bad about being out $15 instead of $200 (or more).

I know there are other considerations such as UV protection, prescription lenses, etc, but I have to believe cheap sunglasses do just as good a job. What side of the sunglasses argument do you fall: cheapo shades or designer all the way?

The Frugal Roundup

How to Prepare For and Rock a Behavioral Job Interview. Here is a great post if you are looking for a job or just changing careers. Many companies (and hiring managers) are starting to go this route for interviews. (@The Art of Manliness)

Buying a New Car May Actually Be Cheaper Than a Used Car. Jeremy takes a look at one of the more heated debates in personal finance. (@Gen X Finance)

Cheap Wedding Ideas On a Small Budget. I guess it’s about halfway through wedding season, but this would be a great post for someone planning one within the next year or two. (@The Digerati Life)

Worth More Than Money: Taking a Detour on the Road to Riches. Sometimes you may need to push pause on your financial recovery to do what’s important. (@Get Rich Slowly)

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Yet another shameless plug for the Frugal Dad Facebook Fan page. Sorry, but we are just 20 fans away from 1,000! Will you help me spread the word?


  1. My husband is an optometrist – and even he won’t let me have designer sunglasses, even when we can get them at cost. It’s the dollar store for me – you can still get UV protection and I can buy a pair for each car, each purse and if I’m lucky I won’t have lost all of them by the time the kids go back to school.

  2. I did the inexpensive sunglasses thing for a while, but it just didn’t work for me. The problem was that I knew that they would be cheap to replace so I just didn’t care about them as much. Being in the Army, I can get Oakleys (ballistic lenses, polarized) for about $60 a pair through usstandardissue.com and I got a pair. They’re great – I can wear them while swimming, running, biking, shooting (although if I’m shooting pistol too quickly, i.e. one right after the other, they can get fogged). They’re rather indestructible (I’ve sat on them without them breaking before) and don’t scratch as easily as cheapos. Plus they are polarized, which was a must when I was living in the south. There’s no way that any cheap pair of sunglasses could match them, especially with the need for them to be black lenses and frames so I can wear them in uniform.

    • Great to know Emily. My helicopter pilot son loses sunglasses like they are water! It seems to be the present for birthdays and Christmas.
      Thanks for the tip- and thank you for your service!

  3. This is one I will choose to disagree with you on. While you do not need $200 designer sunglasses, there is a HUGE difference between $15 and $50. I made the mistake of using your logic for a few summers of lifeguarding when I was 16-18 and now I’ve burned my retinas so bad that I can’t go outside without sunglasses on. I’m basically blinded in natural sunlight due to my error ten years ago. Don’t make the same mistake.

  4. I read something a while back about cheapo sunglasses actually being dangerous to the eyes, the reason stated was that the tint causes your iris to stay open more than it should under untinted circumstances all the while letting UV through unfiltered thereby subjecting the eye to more UV than you would otherwise get while squinting without sunglasses.

  5. It’s not for the designer aspect, but I do wear Oakleys. Of course, I wear the same pair for years and years, so I’m not saying I would make the same decision if I didn’t. I live at a higher altitude, and the sun is strong, and I wear them every time I get in the car, for bike riding, and anytime I’m going to be outside for any length of time. I bought them before taking a driving trip that was 15 hours each way, and I have never for a second regretted spending the money. If I had a problem with losing or breaking them, I’m not sure what I would do. There is such a huge difference, though.

  6. I would have to say you are still paying to much for sunglasses. I buy the safety brand of sunglasses. I buy these for around $3 a piece and these last pretty much for awhile depending on mileage of course. They have the advantage of safety lenses while I am outside working in the yard, and they work well to block 99.9% of UV rays. They also come with a snazzy cord to keep them around my neck when I step into the house.

  7. Wow! The consensus seems to be that designer shades are worth the price when compared to the cheapo ones… and I would have to agree!

    My wife goes through the cheap ones like crazy, which is fine for her, I guess. She likes to swap styles every so often.

    I, on the other hand, have a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses that I take care of. They protect my wife, will last me a lifetime (if I don’t lose them), are nearly indestructible, and look good. Yes, I did pay too much for them. But with price vs. quality, quality easily wins here.

  8. Depends on your reasons for wearing them….
    If you need the eye protection for medical reasons, then buy the best for your situation.
    If you are into fashion, and if that is where you chose to NOT be frugal because you are frugal everywhere else, then buy what makes you happy.
    If you are just buying throwaways for a one time vacation and don’t use them the rest of the year, then the cheapies will probably work fine 🙂

  9. I take care of my sunglasses so I don’t feel bad spending money on them. I just got a pair of Costa Del Mar’s. They are $240 in stores, but I got them at an online discount retailer for about $160. (Yes, I compared to in-store glasses and they’re real.) They’re polarized, 100% UV protection, and the clearest lenses I’ve ever looked through. I fully intend to wear them for the next 5 or 10 years.

    The last pair of sunglasses I purchased were Oakley Juliets… 8 years ago. I still have them and wear them to run. I wanted the Costas so that I could keep the Oakleys in my gym bag full time instead of using them to run, and to drive, and whatever else.

    If I were to go through just two $15 sunglasses each year, I would have spent $240 on sunglasses in the 8 years I’ve had my Oakleys, which is more than they cost me to begin with.

    If you sit on sunglasses a lot, then cheap is the way to go. If you can take care of a pair, I think spending some money is a fine thing to do.

  10. I went through so many pairs of $20 sunglasses. The frames would get easily bent, plastic lenses easily scratched, coating would flake off, and they would easily rust.

    Finally, I just gave up and bought a $200 pair of Oakley’s. I love them, and they’re still great to this day, about 2 years later. I would never go back to cheap sunglasses. They’re definitely worth the money for the quality and longevity.

    Sometimes you have to know the difference between being frugal and being cheap.

  11. I left my $20 sunglasses somewhere two years ago and never replaced them. I might get squint lines, but I’m not vain enough to care apparently. 🙂 This only works if you aren’t in the sun every day obviously (I hate outdoor activities in the summer in Houston – I burn too easily – so it’s only a big deal a few times a year).

    Thanks for the link love!

  12. I would recommend getting the more (not outrageously) expensive pair of sunglasses unless you’re really harsh with them. The theory being you’ll take care of the sunglasses instead of treating them like a disposable $5 pair.

    • That’s not a bad theory, actually. I do find that I tend to take better care of things I have more invested in. I guess that’s not really a very frugal habit – I should care for things equally so I don’t have to replace the cheaper items more often and wind up spending much more money.

  13. I spend $20-$25 on the sport/fishing wrap-around polarized lenses. The wrap around is a must for me, and the polarization + UV protection is great. No glare, and I can see a couple feet into water!

  14. I have a really strong prescription, and never had prescription sunglasses until a few years ago. (I can’t wear the off-the-shelf kind because then I can’t see!) I had tried the kind of sunglasses that attach to your regular glasses – they match, you purchase them as part of your regular glasses frames – but they let in too much light around the sides.

    I admit I spend upwards of $300 on my sunglasses, but I LOVE them! I never realized how many of my headaches were from squinting in bright light or on gray-bright cloudy days. I take really good care of them, and since my prescription isn’t changing any more they’ll last me several more years unless a horrible accident befalls…

  15. I buy the cheapo sunglasses all the way because usually i’ve broken or lost them within 6 months. Even with the cheap sunglasses I’m pretty careful – but they just always seem to get damaged in no time. I don’t think buying expensive ones would change that.

    Also, just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean that they don’t have UV protection – etc – just make sure to buy ones that do have that – and you’ll be fine!

  16. Cheapo all the way!! Being a chick and somewhat fashion conscious, I like to change the shades once or twice a year. This way I do not feel like I am dropping alot of money on a item that can be trendy.

  17. I think getting cheaper designer sunglasses from TJ MAX or Ross seems to be the best option for me.

  18. I live South of Phoenix. On my husbands commute he gets the sun right in his face. My brother-in-law sells expensive sun glasses and got us a discount. This pair stays in his car and is just for commuting. Its a lifestyle tool – where you live it may not be as necessary.

    My kids have hereditary severe light sensitivity. A note from his optometrist means he always has to wear his. We didn’t go with designer for him but we eventually will as we will still be living here. We are waiting till he can take care of them.

    • I like the idea of dedicating a nicer pair of sunglasses for driving, exclusively. You could then pick up a cheaper pair for yard work, sporting events, vacations, etc. The better pair are less likely to get lost or broken if they live in the glovebox when not on your head.

  19. I wish that I could buy cheap sunglasses, but unfortunately I have to buy prescription lenses since I wear glasses. This can make wearing sunglasses a real financial burden. An option to consider is those lenses that change to shaded lenses in the sunlight (transition lenses).

  20. The theory that spending more on a pair means that you’re likely to take care of them wasn’t true for me. I spent $300 on a pair of Versaces and within months, I’d lost them as I do with any pair of sunglasses I own. It was inevitable (for me) and I don’t know why I thought otherwise. Of course, I spent a lil more effort than normal trying to get them back but it was futile as I’m sure the finder also knew they weren’t cheapos as well. Cheapos for life for me!

  21. I have prescription sunglasses, so I can’t go the super cheap route. However, in my family, when we get a new pair of regular prescription glasses, we often have the lenses on the old pair tinted–cheaper than buying new frames and lenses.

  22. I got the best of both worlds: prescription sunglasses for about $20 off zennioptical.com . Also a great venue for regular glasses. I love having proper shades, and still being legal to drive.

  23. I don’t care about the brand, but I do buy expensive sunglasses. I find I lose them far less often (have only had 2 pairs in 10 years) and take better care of them. I buy the expensive ones because polarized is a *must*!

    Btw, would love to see an article on how to save money on glasses when you get a prescription. I filled mine through my eye doctor (didn’t know any better; first time having glasses) and I’m sure I got reamed. How do you comparison shop for glasses? Where are the best places to buy them?


  24. I still wear my 1993 Ray Bans daily, especially for driving. And they still add a great deal of quality to my life. I suppose that if you go the designer route, the trick is to choose a classic style, and then to wait a month before actually purchasing them!

  25. I used to have very expensive Oakley sunglasses until my daughter ripped them off my face and broke them. I now only go with Gas Station or Drug Store sunglasses as I usually end up sitting on them or having them fall out of my shirt pocket. If you have kids go with the cheap eye wear. If you’re single go with the more expensive…

  26. If you like nice sunglasses, check out the web. I saw a pair of Esprit sunglasses I liked when I took my daughter in for an eye appointment. They were over $150. I found them on Endless.com (affiliated with Amazon) for around $30.

    For glasses in general, I’ve heard a lot of people like Zenni Optical. You have to do a little legwork to figure out your fit, but it might be worth checking out.


  27. Here in Australia we have the ‘Cancer Council’ which runs a chain of stores selling sun protection items such as sunscreen, sun shirts, hats and sunnies. Some of them look okay and they are mostly polarised. As they are a good price and that i tend to destroy good pairs, i find these are the better option for me. Price wise they aren’t market-level but they definately aren’t designer.

  28. I’m somewhere between- I don’t spend more than 50 or 60 on a pair, but I can’t go with the cheapos. My issue with them besides protection is that the frames never have any give in them and end up putting a lot of pressure on my temples. Since SoCal driving requires sunglasses to see straight, that’s just not an option. Right now I’m wearing a pair of Fossils that not only have give but even bend outward a little- I paid $45 for them and the comfort is worth every cent.

  29. There’s nothing as disheartening as putting on a cheap pair of sunglasses. Mine look like plastic. I intend to get some from Randolph Engineering as soon as possible.

  30. I have to admit, I have a pricier pair of sunglasses than I used to. One day, I decided it was time to “be a grown-up” and purchase a quality pair of sunglasses and a quality watch. I did replace my sunglasses when they got lost & then broken on my wedding weekend (when I’d had them just over a year), but I’ve had the new pair for two years now (purchased on a layover on our way to our honeymoon) and they’re still going strong. I actually carry a case with me wherever I go, and use it now. I have extreme sensitivity to light, so I wear them almost every day, even in rainy Washington. It’s annoying when I have to take them off because they’re full of raindrops, but it’s still too bright for me not to wear them…

  31. While i get that Pradas may be more than most of people want to spend there are plenty or brands, Oakley, Revo, and my favorite Maui Jims that are well worth the money. When you buy the cheap shades all the coatings are sprayed onto the lenses so once they are scratched you lose alot of protection while Oakley and Revo being made by the same company use injection molding when making the lenses which means if they are polarized it will be part of the lens so not only is the clarity better because you are not looking through layers but if you scratch the lens all the protection is still there. Also for sports its hard to beat Oakleys they are tested by dropping a 1/4 inch spike into the lens and it has to withstand the pressure (they use a patented lens material) while cheap shades use low quality materials that barely meet industry standards. Then there are Maui Jims if you look at the inside of every maui jim they will all have a pat pending number on the inside and i believe its some of the coatings they use……There is always reasoning behind prices for everything and its important to do research before any purchase….but when it comes to your eyes it makes much more sense to spend the 200 now on expensive sunglasses than thousands later on in life because you got cataracts and need surgery or prescription glasses which are at least twice the price!!! I put alot of research into this and ended up with a pair of Maui Jims that i love!!