BILLINGS - The school year is just around the corner, which means parents are back-to-school shopping.
It can be stressful for families this year since the cost of school supplies is up 41% from pre-COVID times in 2019.
Fortunately, parents in Billings have options, but it's not easy.
“I think for the community and myself, it’s very expensive with the cost rising,” said Billings parent Alba Pimentel on Monday.
Pimentel has two kids going back to school this year, and she’s had to adjust when shopping.
“I started, but in order not to affect my budget, I did little by little,” Pimentel said.
She’s been purchasing school supplies with each grocery trip she takes.
“I couldn’t do it all in bulk cause you’re looking at $50-$100 added to the budget,” said Pimentel.
According to the shopping website, RetailMeNot, families buying back-to-school supplies are expected to spend around $1,100 on average this year.
Parents have seen a 55% jump in what they expected to spend on school supplies last year versus this year.
The Billings Salvation Army has a back-to-school supply assistance program free for families.
“We try to provide a well-rounded backpack catered to each age, each grade, ‘cuz each school has specifics of what they need,” said Colin Pederson, a lieutenant for the Salvation Army.
Parents can swing by the Salvation Army to sign up.
Across town at Harvest Church in the Heights, even more help is available.
“We’ve given out supplies for years but this year we’re expanding to include a whole bunch of services,” said Darian Armer, Harvest Church co-director of the kid’s program.
The church is hosting a back-to-school fair for families from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 13.
They’re also offering families free access to Billings wellness providers.
“Free haircuts, we’re doing free eye exams. We’re giving out free, first day of school outfits,” said Claire Herbert, the church's other co-director of the kid’s program.
They’re even offering Medicaid and WIC assistance.
“We just want to bless families in the community, make it a little easier for that first day,” Armer said.
Both institutions hope they can alleviate parents' stresses during what can already be a taxing time.