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Your Financial Musts for 2014

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Lose weight, take a vacation, spend more time with family ... although these are all excellent resolutions to make for the New Year, none are quite as important as improving your finances -- at least according to a survey by Capital One. When consumers were asked which area of their life they most needed to get more from, 59% said finances while only 27% said love and just 15% said work.

If you're among the majority of Americans looking to improve your financial picture, there are some steps you can take for a brighter 2014. We checked in with experts who weighed in on the five most lucrative financial resolutions you can make.

1. Get on a realistic budget.

This may sound like an obvious solution for many -- the simple formula of having more money going in than money going out -- but it's oftentimes much more complicated than that, says Jim Schinella, CEO of budgeting tool Manilla.

"People will forget the payments that occur once a quarter or once a year, or the fact that someone's birthday is coming up, and then they find they've overspent," Schinella says. "That's why you need to have a system that gives you total transparency of information."

Another big budget-buster is entertainment expenses, Schinella says. Such things as dining out, movie and concert tickets and even cocktails can really add up. Daily expenses such as morning coffee and lunch can also be an issue.

"Ask yourself: How would I cut that down? What meals might I cook at home?" Schinella says. "Many people would be shocked how much they can save by lowering those types of casual expenses."

2. Take advantage of your employer-sponsored 401(k).

It's no secret that everyone should be packing as much money as they can away for retirement, Schinella says. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of their employer-sponsored plan. Some people don't like the idea of the automatic paycheck withdrawal, while others may fear they won't work at the company long enough to take full advantage of the match.

"You want to capture whatever employer match you have, because it's free money," says Greg McBride, Bankrate.com senior financial analyst. "You may not always work for an employer who has a 401(k), and when you switch jobs you may have to wait a period of time before you can start putting money away again."

If the 401(k) option is not available to you -- or even if it is -- McBride recommends also investing in an IRA.

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