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DO IT YOURSELF AND CLEAN UP

Vehicle owners, we know how you are. -You love your wheels, and you do everything in them: eat, drink, apply makeup, store papers, hide trash. -If you're like us, you practically live in your vehicle. And it shows.

Trouble is, keeping it clean can cost as much as a nice dinner out. A no-frills exterior wash isn't bad, most places charge about $8 to $10, but at quality carwashes a spray-wax job can bump the damage up to more than $20.

Detailing?

That'll be more.

And yet, people fork it over.

Save your money and wash your vehicle the old-school way:

Get in gear.

A soft sponge or chamois, or shammy, cloth, a hose and a bucket of mild dishwashing soap are all you need to get the exterior job done, provided the weather's fair.

But in a couple of months from now, standing outside holding a cold spray of water during a cold snap might sound less appealing. You might have to cheat a little. Here's how.

Wash. Visit a drive-through, where you can get a carwash for less than $5 in most cases. You're not going to get the carwash of the century. But it'll last you until the next rainstorm.

Clean the carpet. Industrial-strength vacuuming costs usually less than $1 for most do-it-yourself vacuum stations. The nozzle's going to be too big to get into all those dark crevices, but save that job for your hand-vac at home. The vacuum at the carwash is a good start for de-crumbing your upholstery and floor mats.

Tackle the trash. Use this rule of thumb: Any item of trash that doesn't fit into your built-in ashtray doesn't belong in the vehicle.

Detox the dash. Armor All Orange Cleaning wipes ($4.24 at Target.com) smell of orange and leave your dashboard looking shiny. Yes, they may cost more than the wash itself, but one container should last a year.

With the money you'll save on your budget wash, you might have enough left to take yourself and your car out to a fancy dinner.

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