One of the biggest financial crises we are facing right now involves student loans. There are 44.2 million Americans with student loan debt, with the average monthly student loan payment being $351 according to Student Loan Hero. For many, it has crippled their ability to be mobile financially and the weight is dragging them under—but this doesn’t have to be the case for you. Here are a few things you can do to make sure that you don’t end up with more than you can handle.

Stop and Map Out Your Education

Before you even considering borrowing a single penny, you should nail down what you want to study. I have been there, and I was fortunate to have only changed my major one time. However, many other people end up extending their education careers because they change their major multiple times. Rather than going to college for five or six years, increasing how much you end up paying, plan out your path beforehand so you can get it done in the desired four years.

One of the best ideas currently catching on in the U.S. is taking a year off in-between high school and college. Not only can you use this time to really nail down what you want to study, you can work to save a chunk of cash to pay for school, or encounter other career opportunities such as learning a trade.

Make A Financial Plan for Post-Graduation

According to the article“How to Stop Student Loans from Ruining Your Life” by Wise Bread, numerous surveys have revealed that many students with education loans do not have any idea what they have gotten themselves into. What you should do is determine the monthly cost of your loan, and create a plan to tackle it as soon as you graduate. Another trick that you can do is get a part time job while you are in school, and make payments on your loans while you are in school to decrease the amount you will have to start paying down when you graduate.

After you have determined what your monthly payment is going to be, you should map out how long it would take to pay it off by calculating a greater payment. So, in addition to handling the monthly payment, you can run the numbers to see how long it would take if you paid varying amounts above the monthly payment. In doing some solid number crunching, this will encourage you to live more within in your means so that you can ultimately get debt free.

If you are already figuring out the numbers for your student loan payment, you might as well start making a monthly budget that will allow you to not only save but stay on track with your payment goals. It is too easy to overspend when you don’t have these number in your head. In the long run, it will be well worth your time to think ahead about your finances so you can get rid of your debt as soon as possible.