Lastly, it's important to note that financial safety nets are vital — even if you have a big student loan balance. The point of having a solid emergency fund is to be able to quickly access it in an emergency (i.e., an unexpected car repair, medical bill or job layoff), so having it tied up in your 401(k) isn't ideal. Instead, consider parking it in a high-yield online savings account.
Most experts agree that saving up an emergency fund that's equal to three to six months' worth of expenses is a good cushion, butmore isalways better. That means if all your monthly bills add up to $3,500 per month, you should aim to gradually sock away $10,500 to $21,000. (Don't panic; you won't get there overnight. At the end of the day, having just $1,000 on hand could get you through your next hiccup.)
Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist. She covers everything from personal finance to spiritual growth. Her work has been published in MagnifyMoney, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping and Forbes. Follow her on Twitter
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!