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The most important step to take with your money if you're worried about layoffs, from a personal finance expert

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With a number of major companies announcing layoffs at the beginning of the year, you may be wondering how to get your own finances in shape in case your job is next on the chopping block.

The key to layoff-proofing your money is planning, says Anne Lester, a personal finance expert and author of "Your Best Financial Life: Save Smart Now for the Future You Want," which will be released later this month.

"The most important thing you can do is actually understand what you're going to do beforehand," she tells CNBC Make It. "That way, when you're under stress, you don't also have to stress yourself out by trying to figure all this stuff out on the fly."

Here's how to make a plan now if you're worried about layoffs down the road.

Make a list of expenses to cut

Start by getting a clear picture of your expenses while you're still working and earning money. Then, create a list of which expenses you'd be able to cut immediately in the event you're let go from your job, Lester says.

"There are some things that really aren't very painful to cut out that you're probably spending a lot of money on, like streaming services," she says.

Since it can take time to find another job, make a plan for how you'll continue to reduce your expenses as time passes.

"Have a list of the expenses you're going to cut immediately and then know if I don't find a job in a month, I'm gonna dig deeper and cut these [other] expenses," Lester says.

Having this checklist prepared ahead of time can prevent you from making panicked decisions about which expenses to cut in the moment. "When you get super stressed out, our ability to make good decisions diminishes significantly," she says.

And remember, you won't be giving up your subscriptions or other things on your list forever. Think of your checklist as a short-term strategy that can help you reduce your expenses until you land your next job. After you do, you'll be able to build a new budget with those expenses factored in.

Build up your emergency fund

Additionally, try to build up your emergency fund. It should ideally contain enough cash to cover around three to six months of living expenses.

But if you're not quite there yet, you're not alone. Nearly 60% of U.S. adults wouldn't be able to cover a $1,000 emergency expense with their savings, according to recent data from Bankrate.

That's why knowing where your money is going is crucial. Having a clear understanding of your spending habits allows you to understand where you can cut costs. You can then reallocate that money toward your emergency fund.

You may realize you could save money by bringing your lunch to work instead of ordering from a restaurant or that you've been paying for a subscription you no longer need, Lester says.

"There are all kinds of ways you can start cutting back without like feeling like you're being deprived," she says.

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Living on $220K a year—and rooming with my parents
Living on $220K a year—and rooming with my parents