Organize Your Life: Ring in the New Year Right

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By Megan Rodriguez

There is no better way to conquer the next 12 months than through advance planning. We asked the pros for tips on a New Year Check List for everything from annual doctor visits to home maintenance To Dos. Your phone is probably already in your hand, so take 10 minutes to set up these reminders for keeping your busy life on track and get ready to make 2018 the best year yet!

From grade school to grad school

Parents of school age children should be flexible when planning parent teacher visits, according to Matthew Rush, Head of School at Allen Academy. While most schools schedule these conferences a few times a year, it is critically important for parents to have conversations with teachers as situations occur.

“The social, the emotional, and the academic – I think those are three key areas to a student’s life,” says Rush. “Being able to ask questions like ‘How do you think my child is doing in those three areas? Where can I help my child and the school in those three areas as a parent?’ is great for the school because it shows that the family wants a partnership and they are also being proactive. That just opens the doors for some relationship building and awesome conversations.”

Conversations about college should start at a young age, says Rush, and informally walking campuses when it is convenient is highly beneficial. Formal visits should begin during the summer between 10th and 11th grade. Many high schools offer college counseling to assist students in arranging these meetings, but parents and prospective students can also contact colleges themselves.

“In the beginning, it’s important to think about the feel, the geography, sense of pride of the campus, where do you see yourself,” says Rush. “Then, as you get more comfortable in terms of what you want, then you can start to narrow it down and take more specific visits to places that make sense and start to factor in academic programs, study abroad programs, and asking about financial aid.”

Homeowner Tips to Maintain the Nest

Start your home maintenance check list with cleaning or replacing air filters every one to two months and making sure your electrical outlets aren’t defective, suggests Rose Selman, executive officer of the Greater Brazos Valley Builders Association.

“Smoke detectors and CO2 detectors should be tested every six months,” says Selman. “They have a test button and most of the time they will chirp if the battery is getting low.

“Prior to either the winter months or the summer months you want to look for gaps in doors and windows, the caulking around piping going to the exterior and windows, and replace worn weather strips around doors,” adds Selman.

For safety and comfort, clean fireplaces before winter use, and cover outdoor outlets properly to protect from weather, says Selman.

“Check your roof, making sure that your roofing and insulation are in good condition,” says Selman. “Insulation especially plays a big part in energy efficiency, and the roof over your head needs to be in good condition to keep the inside of your home secure.”

Set a spring reminder to clean your gutters before spring rains, and to check your sprinkler system to make sure the system wasn’t damaged by freezing winter weather.

Why You Don’t Want to Keep the Doctor Away

Routine visits can be scheduled any time of the year, but typically doctor’s offices slow down during the summer making it an easier time to schedule appointments, according to Dr. James Distefano, a physician at Cornerstone Sports Medicine and Texas A&M Athletics.

“With our lifestyles nowadays, and with us having an increase in hypertension and diabetes, you should probably have a physician after the age of 30 to at least do a yearly checkup; just a routine physical,” says Distefano. “A lot of companies now require their employees to get a yearly checkup for preventative type maintenance, to check blood work, see if you have any family issues that might require more frequent testing.”

Children under the age of 18 can go to their pediatrician for yearly screenings to check height, weight, monitor growth spurts and puberty development, as well as look for common children’s health problems such as heart murmurs, asthma and scoliosis, says Distefano.

“Between the 18 to 30 range you can have a family physician to keep up, depending on if you’re working somewhere or if you’re doing athletics, you can get a yearly physical with your regular doctor,” says Distefano. “They don’t have to do a full exam every year they can just see if there are any changes from the year before to see if anything needs to be addressed.”

Save, plan, and protect your finances

While savings accounts can be opened at any time of the year, the earlier the better because it gives them more time to accrue savings, says Frank Varisco, market president for Bryan College Station for American Momentum Bank. Basic savings accounts carry a lower minimum balance requirement of $100 to avoid a service charge, which is beneficial for someone getting their first account. However, they carry a low interest rate. Money market accounts are a good option but usually require $1,000 minimum to open.

“It’s best practice to commit to paying yourself first after every pay period,” says Varisco. “Most people will pay all their bills and living expenses and try to save whatever they have left. If you do that, it’s harder to save. If you pay yourself first and have enough budgeted to cover your bills, you will be a more disciplined saver.”

In order to avoid unexpected bank fees, Varisco says it is important to shop around to learn what different banks and credit unions offer since every bank is different.

Starting a 401K with an employer as early as possible is helpful in the long run, according to Varisco. Many employers will match a certain percentage or dollar amount, so be sure to find out how to take advantage of an employer’s maximum match.

There are also many ways people can protect their personal information, and while it is helpful to invest in fireproof boxes or vaults, Varisco notes these can sometimes be targeted by intruders.

“Most banks also offer safe deposit boxes, and it’s an even more secure container for your documents,” says Varisco. “The smaller the box, the lower the rent. You pay an annual rental fee to have a safety deposit box at your bank, and they are inside a vault so they are much more secure.”

Don’t Neglect Car Maintenance

Oil changes at either the 15 percent oil life indicator, or at 6,000 to 9,000-mile intervals, are a top priority for car maintenance, according to Rusty Skinner, general manager of Allen Honda. In addition, tire rotations can maximize your tire life and coolant level checks are especially important so a vehicle is prepared for a possible freeze. Tire pressure should also be monitored since dramatic drops in temperature can cause the pressure to drop.

“Regular scheduled maintenance is the best way to protect your hard-earned investment,” says Skinner. “Car prices are not going down. They continue to rise, so the best way to make sure you are getting the most money out of your purchase is to stay on top of your maintenance and find a dealer that you trust.”

The new year is for making resolutions, so commit to doing your part to improve roadway safety. According to TXDOT Bryan, approximately 3,506 people die on Texas roads every year. In addition, TXDOT says it has been 17 years since the last “deathless day” on Texas roadways. Make 2018 be the year your family commits to ending distracted driving. Visit for a list of apps and programs that can help you make and keep this life-saving commitment.