How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

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Americans are expected to spend $75.8 billion on back-to-school purchases this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That turns out to be over $600 per family on average. If that sounds high to you, consider the following suggestions for keeping your back-to-school shopping below average.

Take Stock of What You Already May Have

Check your home office supplies or any stash of school items you’ve picked up for a great deal at some point or another. The same goes for clothing – find out what your child already has, including any packed away clothes from an older sibling, or cousin, for example. Then make a list of what supplies and clothes each child needs. Remember that you don’t need to do all the clothes shopping right away. There may be better deals on clothes after the back-to-school rush is over.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Don’t be afraid to reuse school supplies that came home in fine shape this past spring. A good backpack should last several years, and it makes sense to reuse things like scissors and rulers, as well as colored pencils or markers that only got a little use the previous year.  

Learn How to Say “No” – or Consider Leaving the Kids at Home

You know yourself well enough to know how resolute you’ll remain when your child is pleading with you to buy the over-priced lunch bag or backpack with a favorite character on it. If you do have your child along, explain why you make the shopping choices you do. A life lesson about sticking to a budget could serve them well for years to come.  

Do Your Shopping Homework

Check the store ads – either from the paper or online – before you leave home. Consider following your favorite stores on social media to stay current on sale prices. Look for the best deals on more expensive items and worry less about things like crayons or pencils, which may account for only a small fraction of your total back-to-school spending. Make the store with the best deal on one or more bigger items your first stop.  

Involve Your Children in Building a Budget

As your kids approach the later elementary years or beyond, consider turning the decision making over to them. Tell them how much you’re willing to spend on back-to-school shopping and let them choose how to spend it, provided they don’t neglect any of the essentials. Tell them if they come in under budget they get to keep what they didn’t spend yet.

Save Your Receipts

Expenses for educational materials required for the normal school day qualify for a Minnesota tax credit. That includes calculators needed for math class, tennis shoes for gym class and musical instruments for band class. Consult your tax adviser or the Minnesota Revenue website for complete details on qualifying expenses for the K-12 education credit and subtraction.

 

By Anita Dualeh

Clarity on Your Non-Negotiable Truths

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When is the last time you sat down and explored your non-negotiable truths?

Your non-negotiable truths are defined as truths that define your boundaries, your dreams, what you stand for and what you do not stand for.  Getting crystal clear and clearly defining your non-negotiable truths will help you form the foundation for your life.

Often we end up learning what our non-negotiable truths are when our backs are up against the wall.  Let’s try to prevent this by clearly stating non-negotiables before we find ourselves in an extreme situation.

You can start discovering your non-negotiable truths by first exploring the things you do not stand for in life.  For example, here are some things I do not stand for in my life:

  • Negativity
  • Dishonesty
  • Disingenuous Relationships
  • Superficial Expectations

It’s not that difficult to sit down and call upon the things you do not stand for in life, or what you won’t tolerate.  Now that we have that mess out of the way, let’s write down the things we do stand for in life. It can look something like this:

  • Love
  • Courage
  • Resilience
  • Curiosity
  • Intellectual Stimulation

By declaring what you do stand for in life and taking it a step further by expanding upon it, you end up with your non-negotiable truths.

For example: If you stand for love, then reexamine your life and curate your actions, thoughts, and words to always be in line with your truth as it relates to love.

The roots of your non-negotiable truths lie within the pillars of what you stand for in life.  When you define what you stand for in life and get clarity on your non-negotiable truths, you can begin moving forward with the intention for years to come.

 

By Tara Massan

Let Kids Be Kids

All too often parents carry their busyness around as a badge of honor, and much of that busyness is in theory for the sake of their children. But if they’re honest with themselves, many parents may feel as though they are running on a treadmill, trying to keep up with the pace of those around them and worried that they could be depriving their children of future success if they jump off that treadmill. They fear they may disadvantage their child for life if they don’t sign him or her up for a wide range of classes and activities in order to build every skill and aptitude their child could possibly need for success in life.

But what if such overburdened schedules lead to unintended negative consequences such as stress, anxiety or even depression? What if an over-booked schedule deprives children of the simple joy of free play? Allowing children adequate time for child-directed, screen-free play fosters the development of a child’s imagination as well as cognitive, physical, and emotional strength. Active, creative play is also an important factor in healthy brain development, research suggests. Left to play on their own, children develop skills in resolving conflicts and advocating for themselves. They have the chance to practice decision making, discover their own areas of interest and do things at their own pace. Unscheduled time allows children to think, create and wonder. Importantly, unstructured play tends to increase physical activity levels in children.

With so many benefits to child-directed play, you have permission to jump off that parental treadmill. Consider the benefits cited above as good reasons for keeping your schedule free several evenings a week plus one full day on the weekend. If you’re likely to fill in those blank spaces on your calendar as new opportunities arise, then go ahead and put child’s downtime on the calendar, like you do for other important appointments, and don’t let your goal be easily derailed.

Resist the pressure to cram your schedule full of activities and instead encourage your kids to use those blocks of time to create their own homemade fun, ideally without electronics or a pop-culture-directed script. Allow them to become the authors of their own lives rather than puppets following someone else’s script. And when you’re tempted to compare your choices to those of overscheduled neighbors and friends, remind yourself that you’re giving your child a valuable gift: the luxury of time for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression. In the process, you may be cultivating healthy habits that could last a lifetime.

 

By Anita Dualeh

 

The Heart of the City 10K

On Saturday, September 10th, hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers will descend upon Burnsville for the 5th Annual Heart of the City 10K, 5K, and 1K races. The event is presented every year to benefit the Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club of America’s Kids Feeding Kids (KFK) program. This initiative helps to get food to area Club youths five nights per week and on school early-release days – times when children are often most at-risk for food security issues. This year’s event is also being billed as a “Run to Remember” – participants are encouraged to dedicate their race to a loved one they have lost.

Kids Feeding Kids

Nearly ten years ago, Brad Rixmann of Burnsville-based Pawn America met with local leaders of the Boys & Girls Club in order to discuss the serious issue of childhood hunger. Knowing this was an issue in his own community through his work with the organization, Rixmann took action and the Kids Feeding Kids program was born.

According to the non-profit organization Feeding America, 15.3 million kids under the age of 18 live in food-insecure households, meaning they, “are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.”

“What we found was that about 5 o’clock, a lot of kids would leave the Clubs and go home and weren’t getting the nutrition they needed,” Rixmann said in a video about the event.

“We see immediate benefits because there are a lot of kids that end of staying at the Club until the Club closes around 8 o’clock or so at night,” Rixmann added. “They’re getting the help they need, whether it’s with school, or learning how to shoot baskets – and with that nutrition, it helps them today.”

Since its inception in 2006, the KFK initiative has served nearly 150,000 nutritious meals per year to Twin Cities and Rochester youth.

The Heart of the City – Three Races for a Great Cause

The Heart of the City event is one that many people from across the area look forward to every year. Both the 10K and 5K courses are certified and cover a gorgeous area of the City of Burnsville, just a short drive south of the Twin Cities. The children’s 1K race is a fun way to get youth involved, all while benefiting KFK programs in the region. Race fees are $45 per person for the 10K and $35 for the 5K; all participants receive a long-sleeved T-shirt, refreshments, and goodie bag. There are also several amazing prizes up for grabs for teams and individuals, as well as a raffle.

A Run to Remember

This year’s Heart of the City race is dubbed a “Run to Remember,” in honor of loved ones who have passed away. In 2013, Jordan Huver, the daughter of one of the event’s founders and an avid volunteer, tragically passed away in an auto accident. At the 2014 Heart of the City race, Jordan’s mother Trish gathered 130 friends and family members in order to “Run for Jordan” and honor her spirit and dedication to children’s causes. This year’s participants are invited to dedicate their runs to anyone they may have lost and want to remember.

For more information on the Heart of the City races and to register or volunteer, visit the event website at www.HOTC10K.com.

 

By Rachelle Gordon

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is the summer highlight for so many Minnesotans (and even our neighbors in surrounding states!). While the future location of the Fest is in question, the land lease has been extended through 2019. That’s welcoming news to the die-hard fans, who now know we have at least a few more summers of donning our capes and chain mail and ordering a glass of mead. While you can, be certain to get down to Chanhassen and experience the RenFest in all its current glory. To make the most of your time there, consider planning your visit during one of the many themed weekends and be sure to check out the new features added this year.

New Attractions

New additions to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this year are a “Wizard’s Flight School Zip Line,” whiskey and scotch tastings ($45/person, schedule posted online) and Renaissance Bingo. A new contest introduced this year is called “The King’s Karpool.” Contestants and three or more friends will decorate their car in a cohesive theme, using #KingsKarpool on both a social media post with a picture of the car/contestants and on the car itself. Winners will be announced daily at 1pm on the festival’s social media sites. Make sure you like/follow the Renaissance Festival on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to see the winners – and maybe even get in on the action!

Theme Weekends

The opening weekend, August 20-21, is “Silk Road: Discover the Riches” and features a Fairy House/Garden competition as well as many Far East related activities. If you’re feeling confident about your ability to sway your hips to the beat, there’s even a belly dancing competition. Middle Eastern music will also be featured, so both your ears and eyes will be tantalized by the sights and sounds.

If you’re looking to spice things up a bit with your significant other, or to just enjoy some delicious treats, September 10-11 is “Wine, Chocolate & Romance” and includes a chocolate festival, chocolate pie eating contest, and free vow renewals for the true romantics at the Banner Oak Event Center. There is also a grape stomp to practice your wine making skills and a Ménage a Trois wine demo. A great addition to the weekend is “Sign Language Saturday,” at which American Sign Language interpreters will be at the festival all day to interpret at the front gate, for stage acts, and other daily events.

The season concludes the weekend of October 1-2 with “Oktoberfest.” This weekend, even though it’s the last of the season, is definitely one of the most entertaining themes. If you have a Dachshund with speedy little legs, consider entering him/her in the Weiner Dog Races – but make sure you pre-register! If you have a lustrous beard that turns heads (in a good way), make sure to be around for the Beard Contest. And don’t forget to save your appetite for the Sauerkraut Eating Contest. The Bavarian Village, a collection of shops, vendors, and more, is also an opportunity to learn more about German culture during Renaissance times.

Pro Tips

If you’ve never attended The Minnesota Renaissance Festival before, here are a few things to know: The festival is open weekends from August 20 to October 2 from 9am-7pm, regardless of weather. Arrive as early as you can in order to avoid traffic–as the day goes on it gets really congested the closer you get to the parking lots. Wear comfortable shoes. Be prepared in case of rain. There is a booth at the State Fair that sells discounted tickets, otherwise, tickets may be purchased at the festival’s front gate when you arrive. It’s a canine-friendly event, but make sure you visit their website, www.renaissancefest.com to make sure you have all the information you’ll need to know about bringing your dog. Their website also has more details on schedules, stage acts, and contest information.

2016 will be a great year for the RenFest, so grab your friends, make a cloak out of an old sheet, and let yourself feel the magic of history and imagination come together in this great Minnesota tradition.

 

By Whitney Grindberg

Annoying Pet Behaviors and How to Stop Them

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Any pet parent will tell you that their furry friends are like a member of the family – but just like your human relatives, no pet is perfect. Incessant licking, destruction, and barking are a few of the annoying pet behaviors that seem nearly impossible to stop. Fortunately, there are humane and effective ways to correct your four-legged friend’s unwanted actions – read on for some expert advice. Unfortunately, we can’t make any promises for your Uncle Rick’s constant pull-my-finger gag.

Whining, Meowing, Barking – What’s All The Ruckus?

When a dog or cat is making a lot of noise, there are a couple of typical causes. The first, and more serious, is that the animal is hurt or ill. However, it is far more common for a dog or cat to get loud simply because they want attention. Ensure your pet is well-exercised and has plenty of engaging toys around to keep their minds busy. This will prevent excitement barking when company comes and constant whining when you’re trying to relax for the evening. If noise-making is still an issue, try your best to ignore the animal. When Fluffy finally quiets, give them lots of positive praise – and belly rubs! This will reinforce the behavior you want – not the one you’re trying to eliminate.

Puppies of Mass Destruction

Uh-oh – you’ve been gone all day at work and come home to find your most expensive shoes chewed to bits. Why do dogs wreck our stuff and get into the trash? Again, this can often be attributed to boredom and/or excess energy. However, chewing on appropriate items can have benefits for your dog’s oral and mental health – so how do you get your dog to pick the rights things to wreck? When you catch your pup in the act with an inappropriate item, remain assertive and correct the action immediately by replacing the item with an appropriate item. Removing temptation is also helpful – keep shoes in the closet and recyclables in latched plastic containers. Out of sight, out of mind!

Begging – No You May Not Have a Bite

Does your dog or cat park themselves under your feet at the dinner table, hoping for a morsel to munch on? Begging is one of the most common – and rude – pet behaviors across the board. When it comes to doggy table manners, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Resist the urge to share human food with your pet, whether it’s during meal time or not. In addition, control Sparky’s access to the dining area. Keep them in their crate or another room during meals and give them their own chew toy or Kong to work with.

Final Thought

Man’s best friend is not always perfect – just like the humans in your life. Prevent unwanted behaviors by keeping animals active, both physically and mentally. If issues persist, reach out to your veterinarian for assistance. Having a pet is supposed to be joyful, so nip any problems in the bud before your furry friend becomes an enemy.

 

By Rachelle Gordon