The cost of school supplies has increased, but support is available in Billings

BILLINGS – The school year is fast approaching, which means parents are shopping for back to school. It can be stressful for families this year, as the cost of school supplies has increased by 41% compared to the pre-COVID period in 2019.

Fortunately, Billings’ parents have options, but it’s not easy.

“I think for the community and myself, it’s very expensive with the rising costs,” Billings parent Alba Pimentel said Monday.

Justin McKinsey/MTN News

Pimentel has two children going back to school this year and she has had to adapt when shopping.

“I started, but in order not to affect my budget, I did it little by little,” said Pimentel.

She buys school supplies every time she goes grocery shopping.

“I couldn’t do it all in bulk because you’re looking at adding $50-100 to the budget,” Pimentel said.

According to shopping website RetailMeNot, families shopping for back-to-school supplies are expected to spend about $1,100 on average this year.

Parents saw a 55% increase in what they expected to spend on school supplies last year compared to this year.


Billings Salvation Army

The Billings Salvation Army has a free back-to-school assistance program for families.

“We try to provide a well-rounded backpack suitable for every age, every grade, because every school has specifics of what they need,” said Salvation Army Lt. Colin Pederson.

Parents can go through the Salvation Army to register. Across town, at Harvest Church in the Heights, even more help is available.

“We’ve been giving out supplies for years, but this year we’re expanding to include a whole bunch of services,” said Darian Armer, co-director of Harvest Church’s children’s program.

The church is holding a back-to-school fair for families from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on August 13. They also offer families free access to Billings Wellness Providers.


Harvest Church

“Free haircuts, we do free eye exams. We’re giving out free outfits for the first day of school,” said Claire Herbert, the church’s other children’s program co-director.

They even offer Medicaid and WIC assistance.

“We just want to bless the families in the community, to make things a little easier for that first day,” Armer said.

Both institutions hope they can ease the stress on parents during what can already be a trying time.

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