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Jenny Dyck, 36, lives in Chilliwack, B.C. and knows a thing or two about teenagers.

She lives with her 15-year-old son and four teenage stepchildren (three boys and one girl) whom she has every weekend.

She laughs and says that the biggest expense for her family is, “undoubtedly food.”

Early Lessons

Dyck wanted to ensure her son learned how to handle money from an early age, so she often spoke about budgeting, saving and spending. “When my son was 13-years-old, I took him to the bank and got him a debit card,” says Dyck. She made a big deal out of the event — taking pictures and trying to impress upon her son that this was an important milestone in his development.

Like many teenagers, Dyck’s son likes to spend his money on clothing. Dyck feels writing out his monthly budget is the best way for her son to avoid overspending, especially when family budgets are tight.

“I was really close to my mom, and I understood that we didn’t have tons of money, so I wrote out a monthly budget — every month. And that’s something I still do to this day.”

Dyck feels that by teaching her teens how to write out a budget, she can help them develop important skills like money management and understanding the consequences of over-spending.

I was really close to my mom, and I understood that we didn't have tons of money, so I wrote out a monthly budget — every month. And that's something I still do to this day.

Jenny Dyck

Putting Teens to Work

With a large household to run, sometimes “extras” aren’t in the budget. To make sure they appreciate what they have, Dyck encourages all the teenagers in her household to take on some form of work.

“It’s important for them to earn their own money, so they appreciate it,” she says. Though the employment opportunities for teenagers may be limited, work for teens can include household chores, or tutoring younger students.

Finding work for teens can lead down some nontraditional paths. Her 16-year-old stepson, for example, works on a dairy farm where he milks cows, alternating between two to three shifts per week. Her 13-year-old stepson works as an umpire, making between $25 and $50 per softball game.

Dyck says that she’s seen her kids make more considered purchases and not take items for granted when they buy them with the money they earn.

Needs Versus Wants

Though most teens can understand the difference between wanting something and really needing it, when all their friends have the latest clothes, phones, and laptops, it can feel as if they need those things too. Teaching them the distinction between a true need and a want may help them as an adult when they have to manage their own money.

Gas, for example, is a need for most households, and one Dyck says her teens have learned a valuable lesson from. With gas prices at all-time highs across Canada, it can get pricey driving teenagers to and from school, work, sports and social activities. Dyck says her teens are aware of how high the prices are and how it affects the family. This in addition to carpooling with friends, taking the bus to school, and public transportation can help a family stretch how much they spend for gas each month.

Ultimately, Dyck believes all parents play an important role in shaping their teenagers’ financial behaviour, and giving them the tools to succeed can help them become more confident adults.

Check out the RBC Parent Hub for tools and resources to help you have the talk with your kids about money.

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