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 gets 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.”

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.


ACTS Staff Feature: Maria Santos

Maria Santos, Director of Homebuyer Counseling

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.

Men aren’t afraid to cry in front of Maria Santos.

Maria, Director of Homebuyer Counseling, says happy tears are shed at the beginning of counseling when families are told it is possible to buy and when they sign the documents to get their keys to their home.

“What they thought could never be possible, is,” she said. “With guidance and their self-determination they have accomplished what we call the American dream.”

Before the happy tears, financial and credit counseling is the first major undertaking for ACTS families.

There’s paperwork and documentation that needs to be provided. Files that need to be meticulously maintained and updated. All of this is overseen by Santos.

With 23 years of housing and lending experience, there’s no underestimating Santos’ ability to keep things moving.

So far in 2017, the ACTS team has empowered 117 families to purchase homes-thanks in part to Santos’ rapport with families–and her ability to empower them toward greater financial security.

Maria plans to keep going.

“For 25 years now, I have helped many, many families and I know that I am still not done,” Santos said. “There are so many more still waiting for their opportunity.”

Her time in the housing field isn’t just a job, but a passion.

“I am passionate about helping families that never thought that they could own a home for themselves or their families. My passion drives me to work hard everyday for them.”

When she’s not in the office, Santos enjoys meals with her large, extended family, attends Brewers games (especially when they play the Cubs!), reads and travels.

Maria’s advice to anyone looking to get started with ACTSDon’t stay away because YOU think you’d never be able to buy! Come to a FREE Orientation to get started.  

ACTS Staff Feature: Tess Wynn

ACTS Real Estate Associate Tess Wynn

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.

Newly-minted real estate associate Tess Wynn was attracted to ACTS Housing because the work is genuine.

“I didn’t want to sell someone a house just to make money,” she said.

Homes are something she is passionate about. She bought her own home when she was only 22.

She started with ACTS as a volunteer and then worked part-time as marketing assistant.  She later took the plunge in becoming a realtor this past summer because she wanted to work more with people.

Although she’s only been a realtor for six weeks, she’s showing promise. She just received her first accepted offer on a city of Milwaukee tax-foreclosed property and has two other buyers she is working with. 

Wynn reviews documents

“I didn’t know much about real estate, but I’m learning so if I can do it, you can too,” she said. Tess admitted she didn’t like school, but the 72-hour real estate course was a breeze for her—at least until exam day.

“They made me take my shoes off to make sure I didn’t have slips of paper in them,” she said.

Her education isn’t stopping there. Tess is on the move learning Spanish to better communicate with clients.

“I’ve started playing video games in Spanish,” she said. “It’s helpful, but I’m learning weird words.”

Like other real estate professionals, ACTS realtors are independent contractors who work remotely. However, Tess is also a proponent of in-office work.

“No real estate situations are going to come up in your living room,” she said. “I’m just trying to experience as much as possible [in the office].”

Tess’ Tips on Becoming an ACTS Realtor

  • Make sure you are comfortable being in distressed homes in challenged neighborhoods.
  • Have a passion for helping people become first-time homeowners.
  • Be willing to work hard to help hardworking families.

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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