DEAR ABBY: I grew up with very strict parents. They used money to control me, even after I graduated from college and grad school. I’m happy to report that I recently landed my dream job. I have achieved financial freedom and, at last, I’m independent.

My question is, how do I avoid going wild? I’m suddenly free to do whatever I want, and I’m tempted to go out and party like I never could before. I want to have fun, drink, dance and finally start dating (and maybe sleeping) around. I worry, though, that I don’t know how to indulge without going over the top.

I’ve been going to concerts (which I love), staying up too late and eating a ton of junk food. All of that seems fine, within reason, but I already feel like I’ve been drinking too much, and I’m worried this might carry over into other aspects of my newly liberated existence. I would hate for my freedom to negatively impact my job performance or have any lasting negative consequences.

I know I’m dealing with something most people process in college, when there is a roommate to help you look out for yourself, a class schedule to maintain and limited funds to spend going out. Instead, I’m on my own, working a job I love with a flexible schedule and I earn enough money to go out as often as I please.

I know I should be saving and budgeting, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I have a fair amount saved, and I add more every paycheck, but it’s nothing formal. I definitely have been spending too much on clothes — my wardrobe was a constant battleground before — and I love wearing things I choose.

Basically, I’m asking for advice on how to enjoy my new freedom in a responsible, healthy way — without going wild. — UNLEASHED IN ILLINOIS

DEAR UNLEASHED: A way to avoid overspending and prepare for your future would be to start saving a predetermined amount from your paycheck on a regular basis. You didn’t mention whether your employer has a program in place in which a certain amount of money can be automatically withheld from employees’ salaries and placed in a retirement account. The way to find out is to ask.

As to your newfound freedom: Although you are a bright young woman and academically accomplished, you may need some guidance now, because your strict upbringing deprived you of learning experiences when you were younger. Talk about this with a licensed psychotherapist until you are less tempted to compensate by “running wild.”

***

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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