Maria’s 10 Tips for a Successful Holiday Spending Plan

Maria’s 10 Tips for a Successful Holiday Spending Plan


The holidays are just around the corner, but the holidays don’t have to bust your budget. It’s possible to enjoy the holiday cheer and reach your goal of saving for a home.

Below are some tips from ACTS Housing’s Director of Homebuyer Counseling that can keep you on track as you plan to make holiday purchases.


  1.  Make a list: Generate a list with names of individuals you plan to buy for.
  2. Check it twice: Assign a spending limit for each person and stick to the amount you budget.
  3. Start early: The more time you give yourself to shop, the more bargain-conscious you can afford to be. There are great deals to be had before the shopping season officially begins.
  4. Double check for accuracy: Everyone makes mistakes, even the person ringing up your sale. And with long lines at the register, it’s even more likely. Check your receipt to make sure you were charged correctly.
  5. Save your receipts: After checking for accuracy, put your receipts somewhere you will be able to find them later. That way you can track your spending as you go, but also efficiently return items if need be.
  6. Carry a visual reminder of your homebuying goal with you when shopping.
  7. Use a layaway plan when available. It helps you stop from buying on impulse, without thinking. Layaway plans do not have finance charges like credit cards do.
  8. Use the money you have. Try to pay with cash, check or debit card instead of a credit card.
  9. Ask yourself hard questions. DO I really need to spend the money? Is buying your home more important than the material items you will be purchasing?  (Need: something you/family has to have. Want: something you/family would like to have).
  10. Continue to save. Most important, continue to put money in the savings account for the purchase of the home. Do not stop saving during the holiday!

Anthony Bell: From Curiosity to Counselor

Meet the ACTS team! You’ve stumbled upon an ACTS Team Member spotlight. These spotlights, published once a month, share what our team members do each day to make ACTS a success.

                               Anthony Bell

Anthony “Tony” Bell, ACTS homebuyer counselor, is known for breaking the ice during orientations by asking attendees what their favorite breakfast food item is.

It’s a way to get to know the attendees, but also ease his nervousness. “As I start talking and connecting with the group my nerves settle a bit,” he said.

Originally from Benton Harbor, Mich., a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, Anthony never saw himself doing homebuyer counseling.

He has held other jobs, but it was a referral from a friend at church that got him interested in ACTS Housing. The training part of the position appealed to him.

“I thought I should give it a try,” he said. “I was always curious and wanted to understand the homebuying process more.”

One of the best parts of the job for him is when he gets family feedback. “The feedback is unsolicited, and it makes me feel as though I am helping them,” he said.

A family completing their homebuying journey is the other piece. The pride in the accomplishment extends from the family to him.

“Now when a family get their approval letter for a loan and closes that’s huge,” Tony said. “That’s when I’m most proud.”


Jenean Shorter Makes Homeowner Dreams Come True

Meet the ACTS team! You’ve stumbled upon an ACTS Team Member spotlight. These spotlights, published once a month, share what our team members do each day to make ACTS a success.

                             Jenean Shorter

Jenean Shorter, ACTS realtor, specializes in making dreams come true. She beams with pride when she discusses the light in one of her homebuyers’ faces when they saw the home they loved.

“She said ‘yes, this is the one,” Jenean recalled. This isn’t the first time a homeowner has fallen in love with a home she has showed them.

A typical work day for her involves nonstop home showings and submitting paperwork on behalf of her homebuyers.

Before becoming a realtor Jenean would spend her breaks from work looking at houses. She took that as a sign that she should pursue a career in real estate. She found the process fascinating after purchasing her own home nine years ago.

“I didn’t want to go back,” she said of her career in banking.

In order to inspire, Jenean draws upon her own experience.

“I was always scared to do it,” Jenean said.

She says the most exciting part of her deals are families finding the perfect house. As an ACTS realtor, Jenean plays a pivotal role in outreach to schools, one of which is St. Marcus.

Two out of three of her children attend the school, so she has a personal interest in ensuring the children have as much stability as her own.

“To see us having St. Marcus advocates to promote ACTS, to say ‘it does work’ I hope it gets more parents through the program,” she said.

Her advice to those who are afraid to make the first move toward homeownership includes changing your mindset. “It’s not as hard as you think,” she said. “It’s much more affordable than renting and it’s a place to call your own.”

ACTS Housing Finalist for Impact 100

ACTS Housing is in the running to receive $100,000 from Impact 100, a collective woman’s philanthropy group, in the family category.

According to its website, awardees in the family category are “projects or programs that strengthen or enhance the lives of children, adults and families living in the Greater Milwaukee area.”

On April 20 Impact 100 members sat for an all-women’s ACTS homeowner panel featuring: Ashlee Crowder, Marianne Peterson, Treesa Sellhausen, and Sofi as part of their site visit.

The panel was moderated by ACTS Housing’s Director of Development Rebecca Stoner.

“I had a beautiful experience with ACTS,” said Sofi who recently bought and rehabbed her home on Milwaukee’s North side. She said that although it was tough, ACTS Housing staff provided motivation to see the process through.

“We never lost faith because of how we were treated by ACTS staff,” Sofi said.

With the guidance of ACTS Housing’s Rehab Counseling team, Sofi and her husband (along with the help of her in-laws) started and completed the heating, plumbing and electrical rehab projects in just two months.

Her project remains one of the fastest home rehab projects the rehab team has seen.

The other panelists echoed Sofi’s sentiments about the level of inspiration they received from ACTS Housing staff.

“Their job was me,” Marianne Peterson said. “They will find a way to make this happen for you,” she said.

More than the experience at ACTS, panelists said that homeownership has greatly impacted them.

“It feels wonderful,” said Ashlee Crowder. “I don’t pay too much for my [rehab] loan. I just want to pay it off so that ACTS can help another family.”

Homeownership has also been a beacon for creative expression particularly for the Peterson-Sellhausen family who are artists.

“I am happy I finally have a place to lay out and work on my art,” said Treesa Sellhausen, daughter of Marianne Peterson.

Most, if not all, of the panelists said they continue to be excited about telling everyone about ACTS.

Marianne, who works at a hospital, carries ACTS business cards to work for the nurses who often complain about their rental properties.

“It all boils down to not being able to afford rents anymore,” she said. “There’s no security in renting and there’s no negatives to owning.”

The winners of the Impact 100 will be announced at a June 6 award ceremony. 

More Than 100 Attend First-Ever ACTS Open House

More Than 100 Attend First-Ever ACTS Open House

More than 100 people convened on ACTS Housing at 24th and Vliet for its first-ever Open House.

The Open House, to raise awareness about ACTS services and connect with neighbors in the community, featured workshops on safety, homebuying and selling a house with ACTS, small household repairs, and the hazards of lead in the home.

Attendees appreciated the learning opportunities.

“It was great,” Danita Bush said of the lead workshop presented by a community health nurse from the City of Milwaukee. “I learned a lot as far as a safety and lead.”

Others were able to pair their existing knowledge with new information like Dana Williamson who recently purchased a home and completed a construction course.

“I saw drywall demo on the flyer and that drew my interest,” she said.

Attendees also had the opportunity to interact with ACTS Housing staff one-on-one through a guided “passport” tour with staff members stationed in different rooms where they could get their questions answered. The passport stations were: homebuyer counseling, real estate, home lending and rehab, and marketing.

A dinner was served and entertainment was provided by the mariachi band Los Plebes de La Sierra. The band is led by ACTS homeowner Taurino Cortez.

The Open House came on the heels of a Princeton Lab report that ranked eviction rates in southeastern Wisconsin the highest in the state.

ACTS Housing, which transitions renters to homeowners has demonstrated that homeownership is a viable alternative to renting.


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ACTS Housing’s mission is to promote affordable home ownership that fosters a low-income family’s ability to be self-empowered, thereby reducing community blight, neighborhood deterioration, and poverty. ACTS’ strategy is to generate home ownership opportunities for inner-city residents within a targeted neighborhood so that an entire community can be transformed and sustained. ACTS’ team provides home buying services throughout the city of Milwaukee.
2414 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53205 USA 391837474