By Lauren Linhard

You can say it out loud.
The F word – Finances.
It’s possibly the number one thing that can really screw you out of enjoying your 20s, totally ruin your 30s, and don’t even think about stability in your 40s.

Now that you’re digging in your wallet just to make sure those dollar bills are still there. Don’t panic! Let’s talk about this particular F word and what I’ve learned about it so far.

You need need need to start an “oh crap fund.”

So, there I was, having been diagnosed with allergies severe enough to be prescribed an EpiPen. I was calmly perusing the pharmacy candy shelves while the prescription was filled, with no idea what sticker shock was coming my way. Well, long panic attack short, I was slapped with a $400 fee – after insurance. I just about died (which would have been cheaper than allergy meds, ironically).

Thankfully, I had started building an emergency fund when I graduated college. Each paycheck, I would try to put at least $100 into my savings, which I vowed not to touch outside of real emergency situations (and no, I’m sorry to say a really cute new pair of shoes doesn’t count as an “emergency”). As much as I hated giving up the money, the payment didn’t affect my day-to-day budgeting and I was able to pay it in full.

The general recommendation is to start by automatically transferring 10 percent of each paycheck into your savings. The goal is to stash enough away to pay three to six months’ worth of expenses for that unexpected time your apartment inevitably floods…or you have to buy an EpiPen.

I would have missed out on a lot at the first job if I had run away because of the pay.
I would have missed out on a lot at the first job if I had run away because of the pay.

Get Your Budget On

There once was a girl (me) who moved two hours away from home to pursue a career in journalism at a job that paid $9 an hour – no lie. I was responsible for $350 in rent, $175 in loan payments, roughly $100 for cable and internet and a $30 gym membership on a monthly basis. Plus groceries and whatever the electric bill decided to be.

I wasn’t going to give up my career dreams because of money. I sat down and made a budget, and from what I had left after paying rent and all my bills, I determined how much I could spend on groceries and what was left for fun money. Granted there wasn’t a lot of fun money, but I lived comfortably within my means for more than a year.

I became best friends with Groupon, LivingSocial and Retail Me Not. I checked the Sunday paper every week for coupons that applied to my shopping list. And I took the time to apply for food stamps, which ended up covering $50 of my grocery bill every month. As Tim Gunn would say – I made it work.

I know what you’re thinking – That sounds great, but where would I even start? Here’s an example budget chart you can adapt to your monthly income and expenses.

Give Yourself Some Credit

I wore glasses or contacts for most of my life and hated every minute of it. Glasses made it impossible to workout or be active and contacts dried my eyes out. It was during a particularly difficult pole dancing class, when my glasses flew off my face and across the room, that I knew it was time for a change. Within the next month I had undergone lasik vision correction.

My glasses are seconds away from falling into the cupcake batter. The struggle is real.

The $5,500 cost was pretty hard to wrap my mind around, but I was determined and the doctor had a partnership with a medical loan company I could work with. I could have paid the whole amount in full – built up from that “oh crap” fund – but it would have cleaned me out. I put $2,000 down and took the rest out on loan.

Taking out my first loan felt pretty scary, but the good news was I still had some money to my name and I was sending some seriously positive vibes to my credit score. Oh, and I could actually see without glasses or contacts! WIN-WIN.

It’s just as important to take on debt as it is to pay it off when it comes to building a good credit history. As the saying goes, “Having no credit is as bad as having bad credit.” Roughly 10 percent of your credit score depends on your credit history, and a whopping 35 percent of your score depends on your payment history. Don’t be afraid to take out a loan, be sure to get those bills paid and keep an eye out for responsible loan payment opportunities!