Opportunity Cost

I’m the one who does most of the writing here on my blog (not surprising, huh?!)  Brett does some of the proof reading and editing. But Jim is the one who adds all the pictures and hyperlinks.

About a month ago, he told me that while I mention “opportunity cost” in a lot of my blog posts, I’ve never had a post dedicated to it.

So I’ve been waiting for just the right example in my life to use for an opportunity cost post.  And I’ve found it.  But first, let’s define opportunity cost.

According to Investopedia:

Opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. Stated differently, an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made.

But the way they said it that I liked best is this:

Opportunity cost is what a person sacrifices when they choose one option over another.

That to me is the clearest description.  Because opportunity cost does mean a sacrifice.  And most people miss that concept completely.


So let’s talk about why I’m posting this now.  As you probably know, my children get asked questions all the time by customers.  Most of them are totally fine, some of them are on the personal side, and some of them go way too far.  Here is an example of somebody who had a very strong opinion on a subject, and didn’t hesitate to share it.

In the Sweet Shop, Brett was talking with a customer and the customer was asking about our homeschooling.  This person asked Brett about what she had studied for high school.  When she found out that Brett has not taken any courses in Chemistry, Physics, Trigonometry, or Pre Calculus, she made a comment that was something like, “Well, your homeschool education was wasted.”

Now, I was in my office which is right next to the Sweet Shop listening to the entire conversation.  Brett was doing a great job handling it, but at that comment, I jumped up because I needed to clarify some points.

In my most upbeat, positive, smiley voice, I introduced myself, said that I had overheard the conversation and that I wanted to point out some things.

I shared with this woman that I was an engineer and had the ability to teach any of my children Chemistry, Physics, Trigonometry and actual Calculus, but that I chose not to.  And the reason that I chose not to was because of Opportunity Cost.

I asked the woman if she know what opportunity cost was, and she replied that she didn’t.  So I told her that, “Opportunity cost is what you give up because you choose to do something.”

I continued with the response that if I chose to take the time to teach those subjects to Brett (or any of the other children), they would be sacrificing their time to other skills or knowledge they could acquire.  I explained that by the age of 16 it was very obvious that Brett would not be making her career in the maths, sciences, engineering, or anything to which detailed knowledge in those courses would be needed.  So if I taught them to her, she would be missing out on learning more skills in English, Writing, and Business, in which she clearly excels.

I could tell that I wasn’t going to change this woman’s mind that every child need to learn Chemistry, Physics, Trigonometry, and Pre Calculus, so I didn’t push it any further.

But afterwards, Brett said to me, “Thanks, Mom, for allowing me to explore what is more important to me and not forcing me to learn what I didn’t want.”

Thanks, Mom!

Now let me be clear, there are a lot of things I believe every child needs to learn, whether they like it or want to learn it or not.  I’m not talking about reading, writing, and arithmetic.

But I believe that there are a lot of children graduating from high school having taken a Pre Calculus class who don’t know how to distinguish between wants and needs, don’t know how to balance a budget, don’t know how to live below their means, don’t know how important it is to save for retirement while they’re young, and a lot of other really important life skills.

When you’re making a decision about what to do with your time (or your children’s time) please, please recognize that you are sacrificing something else.  I see so many young children enrolled in all sorts of classes.  Those may be great, but is it worth the opportunity cost of being able to do nothing and or be creative, or play outside?  I don’t know.

But every time I think about what we are going to do or money we are going to spend, before I make the final decision, I always ask the question, “If I don’t do this, what else could I do with that money or time?”  And on the flip side, “If I do this, what can’t I do because I don’t have the money or time?”

If you start to notice the opportunity cost, it’s amazing how it impacts your decisions.

What about you?  What opportunity costs are you dealing with?


The Buffet of Life

Grandma and Poppy have been with us for several weeks.  They arrived to escape Hurricane Irma and decided to stay until Brett and Mason’s engagement party since it didn’t make sense to drive back to Florida just to turn right around again a few days later.

Poppy took the whole family out to China Garden Buffet last night because he tries to make my life easier and taking care of dinner is a great way to do that! (Thanks, Poppy!)

We always go to the same Chinese Buffet place near our old home in Charlestown.  It’s our favorite Chinese place and the owner knows us and takes good care of us.   When she sees us coming, the first thing she does is head back to the kitchen and tell them to bring out more chicken and brocolli and General Tso’s chicken.

General Tso's Chicken

The children, of course, empty both of those trays of whatever they have and make a sizable dent in many of the other offerings including the ice cream.  I don’t let my children (as a general rule) drink soda, but years ago Jim started the tradition where we all make vanilla ice cream and root beer floats.

As I was sitting with my root beer float (Hewitt accidentally put strawberry ice cream in and it tasted very strange!) and chatting with Poppy, I started to think about how life is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It can be very satisfying or it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable.

So I decided to share some lessons taken from the Chinese buffet and applied to life.

Limit your choices.  On any given day, we have a seemingly unlimited amount of choices to make because we have access to opportunities that were unheard of a generation ago.  While choices are good, they can be overwhelming because they require us to make decisions.  One mistake I see a lot of people (including myself at times) making is to say “yes” to too many opportunities.  It is so important to learn to say “No” and limiting your choices is a great way to start.

Set expectations.  At the Chinese buffet, my children know they have to eat a certain amount of broccoli (or other vegetables) and protein before they can choose some of the fried foods and desserts.  That’s why we always empty the chicken and broccoli dish – because that is the children’s favorite vegetable dish.   They also know how much “real food” they have to eat before they can finish with their root beer float.  By having some boundaries, it makes the experience truly enjoyable.

Try something new.  I always encourage the children to try something new – whether it’s a new dish at the buffet or a new way of doing something or a new event.  We should never stop learning and part of that is always being willing to try something new.  Experimentation often proves that what we’ve always eaten or the way we’ve always done something is the best.  But every once in a while you’ll find something new that improves your life.  Never be so set in your routine that you aren’t open to new experiences.

Choose wisely.  How often do you go out to eat and say you are going to choose something healthy only to end up with something that tastes super good but you know is not a healthy choice.  While I believe that’s ok to do once in a while, it’s not a great life time habit.  Everything you choose to eat at the buffet leaves less room for something else. (Remember opportunity cost?) Choose wisely when you consider what to put on your plate in your life.

Don’t take too much.  If you ask people today how they are doing, many people will respond, “I’m busy.”  Just as we’re tempted to eat too much food at an all-you-can-eat buffet (because we paid for it), we’re tempted to do too much in our lives.  There is value in just doing nothing.  By not filling your plate with tasks you have to accomplish or places you have to be, you are leaving room for the spontaneous moments of life with your loved ones that are often the most precious and memorable.

Know when to stop.  Jim will often laugh at me because I literally leave the last one or two bites of food on my plate.  He thinks it’s silly that I don’t finish it since I’m so close, but I know that last literal bite will push me from feeling “pleasantly satisfied” to “uncomfortably full”.  So I stop.  We also need to do this on our lives.  We need to know when that one more little thing is too much.  For example, I like to clean up the kitchen before bed.  Usually this is pretty easy and quick, but often sometimes there is a big mess.  I’ve learned that if I do too much at night, I don’t get enough sleep and it throws off my next day.  So instead of cleaning it up the way I want, I just tidy it up so it is ready to be cleaned the next day.


Like everything else I talk about, it’s all about finding what works for you.  There are times you need to learn to say no and there are times you need to learn to say yes.  It’s not always easy to understand the difference.  A lot of it comes from wisdom that you gain over time.  That’s one of the reasons I take my parenting so seriously.  My children don’t have any wisdom when they are young.  I not only need to teach them to listen to my wisdom, but I also need to teach them to want to listen to my wisdom. (But that’s a topic for another post!)

What about you?  Got any other ideas how life is like a buffet??






Your Child’s Future

Have you ever heard (or said yourself) the words, “I want my child’s future to be full of possibilities.”  I understand the intent behind those words, but I’m not so sure I agree with them.

As a homeschooling Mom, I kinda think it’s my job to limit my child’s future possibilities.  For example, Brett is barely 5 feet tall.  I’m sorry to tell her, but she’s never going to be a woman’s basketball professional athlete.  That possibility really isn’t open to her.   And while she’s good at math, she doesn’t really enjoy it.  Working as a NASA scientist is probably not a good career choice either.

The more I learn about my children and study them, the more I see possible career paths that are good choices and ones that are bad choices.  The more I can narrow down the possibilities for them, the less overwhelming the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question becomes.

Another example – Hewitt for the past few years has said he wants to be a fighter pilot.  My brother was a pilot in the air force and I know just a little bit about what that requires.  While Hewitt doesn’t have asthma, he was hospitalized with double pneumonia when he was three, and when he gets sick, it tends to settle in his chest.  I will also catch him wheezing once or twice during cross-country season.  In talking with some people, this would probably wipe out his chances of being accepted as a fighter pilot since they need to be perfectly healthy.

F-16 at Scott AFB Air Show

So do I encourage Hewitt in his desire to fly fighter jets?  Nope.  Do I discourage it?  Not actively.  Do I encourage him in other directions?  Yes, definitely.

I personally believe that no parent or adult should determine what a child should do as a job/career for the rest of their lives.  But I believe children and teenagers need a lot more active direction than they are currently receiving.  That means that I am purposely limiting the possibilities that my children consider open to them.

Years ago, I spoke with an older teenager who wanted to be a police office.  I asked him about his reasons.  He gave me some very good reasons and a few unimportant ones. Then I asked him about what he envisioned his family life looking like.  He went into great detail about having a wife and a bunch of children and how they would spend their days.  The differences in his answers were astounding.  He was very logical in talking about being a police officer.  He was very animated and emotional when talking about his possible family.  I then asked him this question, “How do you think your future family will feel about you being a police officer and how will it affect their lives?”  He just stopped, looked at me, and said, “Nobody has ever asked me that before.”

We talked a few more minutes before he had to leave.  I never found out what he ended up doing with his life (he was a stranger I met at an event).  But I’d like to think that whatever he chose to do as a job/career, that he made that choice with his future family in mind and not just his teenage self.

My children probably don’t realize it, but I am always working in the background trying to help them figure out at a relatively early age what they should do with the rest of their lives.  To me, how it impacts family life is a priority and how much potential income it makes is not.

If you ask Emery what he wants to do with his life, he says he would like to deliver baby goats year-round.  Since that’s probably not going to happen, I’m trying to find out what else he’s passionate about. Right now, at Goat Milk Stuff, Emery is making all of our candy (fudge, toffee, caramels, etc.), all of our breads (baguettes, rolls, bagels), and our baked goods (cookies and muffins).

Emery is the Muffin Man

A few months ago I signed us both up for Bread Camp.  I did this for several reasons:

  • I’ve always wanted to cook on a wood burning oven and I wanted to see if this was something I actually enjoyed.
  • I love learning and improving my skills.
  • I wanted Emery to see if he was passionate about breadmaking.

Right now, he’s just following my bread recipes.  I wanted him to find out for himself whether he was as passionate about creating new breads as he is about creating new chocolates.

We had an incredible time at Bread Camp.  It was very special for the two of us to do something together.  I really enjoy Emery’s company (and he acts like he enjoys mine!)  We had great teachers and our fellow classmates were a lot of fun to be with.  We learned several new recipes and lots of techniques.  And we got to make pizzas in the wood burning oven.

PJ & Emery at Bread Camp

I am definitely going to get a wood burning oven* some day.  The chief takeaway for me with it is that my plan to put it by my firepit would have been a huge mistake.  I need it closer to my kitchen.  So when we build our deck (don’t ask me when that will ever happen), I will incorporate the woodburning oven there.  I’m also planning at some point to somehow incorporate a wood burning oven into Goat Milk Stuff so we can offer artisan pizzas with goat cheese.

As for Emery, I think he’s excited about becoming a better baker and exploring what he wants to do with it.  He was very competent at camp and I think that made him feel very good.  Right now, he’s hoping to launch a CSB (Community Supported Bread) program.  He’s thinking of starting with a 6 week program.  He will make 6 different breads and every member of the program will get 1 loaf a week.  Knowing ahead of time how many he has sold will help him to know exactly how much he has to bake.  This will minimize waste which is helpful because wasted bread is discouraging.

Whether or not Emery decides to do something with bread, we had a wonderful experience together and he will either be able to add bread baking as a possibility as a future career or rule it out. But the main point is that Emery had the opportunity to learn and experience what a professional bread baker’s life looked like.

Emery Preps Pizza Dough

This hands-on experience is so important for teens to help them know whether or not they want to make something a career.  I have a lot of friends who went to college to study a subject, only to graduate and find out they hated working in their field.  Was their education a complete waste?  No, learning is never a complete waste.  But it had a huge opportunity cost for them.  I’d much rather guide the children into narrowing down the possibilities and give them some real world experience before they commit to a college degree in that field.

What about you?  Were you given good advice when you were a teen about job possibilities?  If you’re a parent, do you think everything should be a possibility for your child?  Or are you trying to help your child narrow it down?





*Amazon Affiliate Link



Setting My Children Up for Success

I want my children to be wildly successful in their lives.  Not perfect.  But successful.  By successful, I don’t mean materially successful.  Instead I define a successful life as something more meaningful.  I want them to excel in their marriages, their parenting, and their chosen vocations (whether that is goat farming or something entirely different).  I want them to stand out in their culture and generation as individuals who have their priorities in the correct order.

With this theme in mind, I decided to read the book Outliers* by Malcolm Gladwell for the second time.  The first time I read it, I was thinking more about myself.  It came out in 2011 and I was still doing a lot of reading to improve my ability to make Goat Milk Stuff a success.  But now that my children are older, I wanted to re-read the book with the children (and their success) in mind.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I like to underline meaningful passages and there were three sections that I underlined in the book while I was reading it. (Ok, I underlined more, but these are the ones that apply to this topic.)

1. “Successful people don’t do it alone. Where they come from matters. They’re products of particular places and environments.” (Gladwell, 119)

If I want my children to be successful, I need to pay attention to the places and environments into which I put them.

Over the years, I’ve worked very hard to provide my children with an environment that fosters creative thinking, problem solving, and hard work.  For those of you who don’t know us personally and only read the blog or watch the videos, it may seem like all my children do is work.  But this is far from the truth.

I’ve always made sure the children have lots of free time to read, think, draw, play, or do whatever they wished.  The juxtaposition of hard work and free time fosters an environment that is conducive to long-term success.

On the flip side, I also work hard to keep my children away from environments that I believe to be detrimental to their success.  The first thing that comes to mind when I think about negative environments is video games.  I do not allow my children to play any type of video game while they’re living in my house.

Why do I feel so strongly against video games?  My main reason is because I believe they are designed to be addictive.  For those who would argue otherwise, let’s agree that they at least may lead some children to compulsive behavior. In any case, the opportunity cost to video games is huge.  I’d rather my children be running around playing with their friends or reading or building or creating or doing anything other than play video games.

I’ve been challenged by other parents that children can learn a lot of good skills from video games. We could sit here and argue that, but I will always believe that whatever good skills they can supposedly learn from video games can be learned from other endeavors that are healthier for them.

And remember – every family is different.  I’m not saying that every family needs to banish video games for their children to be successful.  What I am recommending is that you be intentional about whether or not you allow them.

Bottom line – as a parent, I can play a part in determining if the places and environments in which my children reside are helpful or detrimental to their ultimate success.  And so can you.

2. “outliers always have help along the way” (Gladwell, 120)

Don’t you love that?  People who are truly successful have had help.

I want my children to understand that their hard work and their effort matters when it comes to their success.  But it’s just as important that they realize they have not done it alone.  I don’t ever want the children to become puffed up and proud about their success.  I don’t want them to ever think that it was because of how special they are that they are successful.

Successful people attain their success in part because certain people were in a position to help them along the way.

Get To Know Your Banker

Can you control this?  Not directly.  But you can put yourself or your children into situations where they can meet other people.  I never introduce my children to people with the expectation that they are going to help.  But I do introduce my children to people whom I admire for what they have done with their lives.  And if down the road, that relationship improves the success potential of my children, that would be wonderful.

But I do caution my children to never expect help and to never take on too much help.  As with most things in life, it’s a balance.

3. “The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not just from inside us or from our parents.  It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.” (Gladwell, 137)

I know lots of people that struggle in this life.  They struggle with financial success.  They struggle with relationship success.  They struggle with vocational success.  Despite hard work and effort spent trying to become successful in their lives, they don’t ever seem to achieve it.


I don’t know for sure.  But one possible reason may be the fact that their backstory takes place at a time that is not filled with easy opportunities for success.  Children of divorce are more likely to be divorced.  Children of poor money managers are less likely to be financially savvy.  It takes effort to break out of our backstory.  There are times when this is easy and times when this is harder.

One recent example was the difference in employment opportunities for those who graduated college during the 2008 Great Recession.  They had fewer “particular opportunities” than those who graduated a few years earlier.

In our particular example, we couldn’t have started Goat Milk Stuff at a better time.  The internet had been around long enough that people were comfortable with purchasing online.  Amazon was still just a book seller and not dominating online sales. And goat milk soap was still pretty new to people.  We were able to give them a sample and when they realized the difference it made for their skin, they were hooked.

Jade's Hilarious Free Samples Video

Because we started Goat Milk Stuff in the year we did, we were able to achieve very rapid success.  Was that success because of our hard work?  Yes, hard work was necessary and played a big part. But I don’t underestimate the fact that a large part of our success was because of the opportunities available to us at the particular point in history we began our business.

I’m also teaching my children that they can’t get so caught up in the work they are currently doing that they lose sight of what is going on around them.  It’s super easy (especially when you like what you do) to get complacent.  But you can’t, you have to constantly pay attention to the opportunities that are currently available to you.

That was a big part of why we became a Grade A Goat dairy.  We saw that we had an opportunity and that there was a need.  We’re taking advantage of it because we know that success doesn’t only come from our hard work.  It comes from “the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with” (Gladwell 137).

Indiana Goat Milk

Another way we’ve paid attention to the opportunities around us is to notice that we no longer have to teach people what goat milk soap is.  Instead, we’ve recognized that our opportunity now is to show people that not all goat milk soap is created equal and that ours is much better than what they can find on Amazon or at their local farmer’s markets.

So those are three of the sections I underlined in the book.  To summarize them in my words:

  1. I need to put my children into environments that can increase their chances for success.
  2. I need to help my children learn that they can’t be successful completely on their own.  They need to connect with people and be willing to accept help.
  3. Opportunities are more available at certain points in time than others.  The children need to be aware of the opportunities that are available around them.

And of course, even though I read Outliers* with the children in mind, these same takeaways also apply to ourselves.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think hard work alone guarantees success?




*Amazon Affiliate Link


7 Reasons We Involve Our Children in the Finances

I recently finished reading Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made in America.*  I admit, I’m not a huge Walmart fan, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.  It was very interesting learning about how hard Sam Walton worked to grow Walmart and how (like us) he involved his family in the business.  I read many parts of the book out loud to Jim, but this one part I read out loud at the dinner table.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances

“As kids, we all worked for the company in one way or another.  I got to work behind the candy counter or run the popcorn stand when I was five years old.  The business was part of life, and it was always included in the dinner conversation.  We heard a lot about the debt it took to open new stores, and I worried about it.  I remember confiding to my girlfriend one time – crying – and saying, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do.  My daddy owes so much money, and he won’t quit opening stores.'” – Alice Walton (daughter)

My children all laughed at that because it was something they could immediately relate to.

Not only have my children been involved in Goat Milk Stuff from the very beginning, but they have been involved in all of the finances and the decision-making as well.  Of course, when they were younger, they didn’t really understand the implications of everything we discussed.  But they knew that they were involved.

Not everyone has a family business (although I would love it if more families started one).  But every family has finances.  We’ve chosen to include our children in our financial discussions for the following reasons.

1. To teach them how to live on a budget.  Budgeting seems to be a lost art for most people.  They just spend what they want without regards to whether or not they have the funds to cover their purchase.  Because credit is so easily accessible via credit cards, many people live beyond their means because they spend their money on purchases that are not necessities and do not build their wealth.

2. To teach them why delayed gratification is important.  One of the greatest lessons that I hope my children fully incorporate into their lives is that it is extremely important to make short-term sacrifices for the sake of their long-term lifestyles.  Discussing the finances with them is a very straight forward way to show them how not spending money on certain items now means we will be in a better financial situation later.

3. To teach them the importance of saving.  Someone once told me, “Save like you’ll live forever” and I’ve found that having a healthy savings account is the best thing I’ve ever done to reduce the stress in my life and my family’s lives.  But not everyone lives that way. According to a 2011 study, “A majority, or 64%, of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.” (http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/10/pf/emergency_fund/)  I want my children to understand how important it is to have savings to cover the unexpected costs that always arise in life.

7 reasons we involve our children in finances_1

4. To teach them the difference between appreciating assets and depreciating assets.  We spend a lot of money on Goat Milk Stuff.  And despite the fact that I don’t like debt, we have borrowed to build things.  But we always stress to the children the difference between borrowing for an appreciating asset vs a depreciating asset.  With the exception of the Beast (our leased GMS advertising vehicle), we drive two old vehicles – a 1994 pickup truck and a 2002 Sprinter.  When these finally die, we have savings earmarked toward replacement vehicles.  We will get the best used vehicle we can with the cash we have available.  We don’t borrow to purchase vehicles.

5. To help them understand the significance of opportunity cost.  Every dollar that we spend is a dollar that we couldn’t spend on something else.  To continue with the car example, right now the air conditioning in the 2002 Sprinter is broken.  And it is HOT outside.  But we’ve made the decision not to put anymore money into that vehicle because it needs to be replaced.  The children understand this decision and everyone has agreed to be sweaty instead of putting the money into it.  Because they understand that if we spend the money fixing the air conditioning, than we don’t have that money to put toward the replacement vehicle.  It’s an important concept for them to grasp.

6. To teach them how to communicate about finances.  Money issues is often cited as one of the leading causes of divorce.  I want my children to learn how to communicate about money now, so that they will understand how to communicate with their future spouses about money.  With a family of ten, we don’t always agree on how our money should be spent.  But we talk it out til we’ve reached a consensus that everyone can live with.  That’s a really valuable skill to have going into a marriage.

7. To teach them to be a good steward and ultimately trust God with their finances.  This is the biggest reason that we keep the children involved so intimately in the business finances.  I’ve always said that God built Goat Milk Stuff.  There have been so many times when he just supplied us with exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.  One common reason I hear from parents who DON’T discuss the family finances with the children is because they don’t want to worry the children or stress them out.   I believe that if you’re pointing the children (and yourself) toward the fact that God has promised to supply all of our needs (needs, not wants), then that is how you teach them not to stress out about money trouble in their future.  When the business is struggling financially, we present it to the children in a way that causes them to rely more heavily on prayer and God than to be overly burdened.  Hiding the finances never really works out well because if Mom and Dad are completely stressed out about money, don’t you think the children are aware there is a problem anyway?

So those are the major reasons we keep the children involved in the finances.  How do you talk to your children about finances?  If you don’t, I’d love to know why not.




Lather Up!

In economics, there is a principle called “opportunity cost”. It basically means that when you choose to do something, you choose to not do something else. The opportunity cost is what you could have gotten if you had instead chosen the “something else”.


There is an opportunity cost to producing a lot of lather in our goat milk soap. We can create a lot of bubbly lather in our goat milk soap using ingredients such as coconut or castor oil. The problem is that these oils can be very drying and irritating if you use too much of them. Too much lather can often come at the sacrifice (or opportunity cost) of not enough moisturizing. So we need to balance things. We use just enough coconut oil to produce a great lather without using too much to dry out your skin. You can watch our soap in action on this video.

Ever wonder what causes a soap to lather? We’ve written about it in a GMSU article, Soap Lather: What Makes the Suds?

We think we’ve reached a super balance in our Goat Milk Stuff soap. Remember, while lather may be an important feature to you, you should not judge the quality of your soap on lather alone. Our goat milk soap produces a nice bubbly lather while still moisturizing your dry skin. We’ve minimized our opportunity cost.