Disclaimer: Although this specific instance is about Kohl’s Cash, this scenario has also happened to me with Target rewards, Stop and Shop gas points, CVS Cares coupons, and so many other “discounts” — or, as I use them in my life, “obligations to spend more.”

As a mom of five, I have to be thrifty. I reuse items whenever I can, I purchase in bulk, and I stalk any sales I can find. Three of my five children are teenage boys. So to say that they go through food, clothing, and basically everything else quickly is an understatement. Between that and the rising costs of pretty much everything, it is very difficult to raise children on a budget.

With that in mind, I am always on the lookout for a good sale. Buy two get two free? I’m in! Twenty percent off is my love language. Got any cashback promos? I love a good sale and find myself in the clearance sections so often.

But you know the money saver that has gotten me into some hot water?

Kohl’s Cash.

When the cashier hands me that green Kohl’s Cash coupon, my palms get sweaty and I can feel my heart beating out of my chest. I have already purchased everything I need for this season and am so proud of my budget-conscious choices. But now I have this “free money” in hand that has an expiration date.

So, I take a day or two to rack my brain for what we could possibly need. And I head back out to Kohl’s with my list. I tell myself I am ONLY going to spend my $20 in Kohl’s cash. But just in case, I also bring my 30% off coupon.

I grab the two items that I decide I need, but it only comes up to $15. I can’t leave an extra five bucks on the table — then I’d have to come back to spend that, too. I’ll just take a look at the shoe section…

And really, who doesn’t need extra socks and underwear? Let me tell you, with three teenage boys, those items seem to just disappear. So I will add a few more to my cart. I mean, it’s a free $20, right?

OH! The clearance rack! Who can put back this super cute bathing suit for this price? Sure, maybe it won’t fit my girls yet, but they may be this size next summer. I’ll just toss it in the cart. I have a coupon, after all!

Christmas is only a few (or more) months away, and you never can start too early. So I’ll run over to the toy section to check out their deals. Hmm, buy one get one 50% off Spiderman toys? I’m sure my nephew will still love Spidey by the end of the year.

I’m feeling good — such a thrifty shopper I am! I head to the register to check out, feeling like I’m on top of the world. The kind cashier asks me if I have a store card and loyalty account (and of course I do). I put in my phone number as she scans my items. Then I pull out my app with my coupons and Kohl’s Cash — I’m going to SCORE on this purchase.

My total is $150. How on EARTH did that happen?

But it’s OK — I can totally justify all of my purchases, and I have spent my coupons wisely. I’m still feeling good.

Until she hands me another $30 in Kohl’s Cash. It expires in two weeks. I decide right then and there that I will not spend it. But… if I can rack my brain to come up with just a few things I need, maybe I can get out of the store without spending a cent, right?

Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool and toddler teacher at a small private preschool and holds a master's degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys in middle and high school, plus two girls in elementary school. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early ed teachers, runs workshops for parents through Boston Naps, and runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.