The secret to winning Valentine's Day is not Hallmark. Whether you're showering your boo with love on Feb. 14, your children or even your coworkers, these 5 quick and cheap homemade Valentine's are everything.

(Full disclosure: My boothang and I are crazy about Valentine’s Day. I mean we do it up. Multiple dates, wardrobe changes, the whole nine.)

Honestly, though, we’re crazy about every day we get to spend together — Feb. 14 is no exception. Still, we like to get big-kid silly on this corporate holiday, because, well, why not. See, we gave up Hallmark years ago. Why? Because anything they can do, we can do better (obvi).

We just figured, dag, we finally made it. We’re grown. We got bills. We got lives. We eat our own food, pay for our own gas. So why settle for cardboard hearts of assorted chocolates and a Hallmark card that never really tells the whole story when we could make our own display of affection?

Listen, my Internet compatriots. I’m about to break down the secret of great gifts, no matter the holiday, but especially when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Then I’m going to give you some ideas on how to win the gift-giving, card-signing game for the rest of your life.

Time. The secret is your time.

Think about it: Your time is your most precious commodity. You can’t get it back. Ever. So spending an hour or two making a Valentine like you’ve been zapped back to elementary school, that right there, major key.

Cool. So this year you’re gonna make a homemade Valentine — a DIY as Pinterest calls it.

Where do you start? With thoughts, of course.

(Side note: You don’t have to be romantically involved to make someone your Valentine. Think about your momma, your niece, that colleague who’s always got your back, whoever.)

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Now that you’ve got someone on the brain, think about where they are, not physically per se, but emotionally and spiritually. Think about what you wish they knew — about themselves, about how much you love them, about how incredible they are.

Be intentional about the time you spend and the thoughts you think. This is the start of a winning Valentine.

Here are some examples I’ve made over the years for the man God made for me. I hope they inspire you. Shoot, I hope I see you at Michael’s getting supplies!


This was my first attempt at kickin’ Hallmark to the curb, and as you can see, it was successful in the corniest way. My goal here was to make my baby blush, and that he did. Depending on your relationship, this Valentine is either a total “cat call” or a hilarious reminder to someone down on their luck that it’s all good. Because they’re da bomb.

What you’ll need: Rolos or Mentos, red construction or printer paper, tape, ribbon, white or black pipe cleaners

Directions: Wrap the candy in the paper. Tape. Cute the pipe cleaner into 1″ pieces, stick into each “dynamite.” Tie the sticks of dynamite with ribbon, add your note, knot and bow.

Cost: $7 to $10, depending on what supplies you have to buy.

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I know not everyone reading this will remember Mr. Dewey Decimal System, but for those 80s babies out there, this is a shout out to our generation. This whole card is made by hand. I even drew the blue lines on the library card. Instead of my name, I wrote dates and ways that I was checking my man out: “2/4 As you prayed over my sweet potato biscuits.” LOL. The hardest part of this Valentine — don’t judge — was writing the little note in cursive. SMH.

What you’ll need: Red, white and cream colored cardstock or scrapbooking paper, dark red paint, red and black markers, alphabet stickers, colored pencils, glue or double-sided tape, ruler ribbon

Directions: Paint red stripes across the cream colored paper. On the left, glue or stick two hearts, hand drawn or painted. Separately, fold the red paper into a pouch (to hold the library card) and stick this onto the right side of the now, red-striped cream-colored card. Draw lines across the white paper, like a traditional library card (Google the image if needed). Remember to leave room at the top for the title of your book “Checking you out,” which you can write, paint or use stickers for. Tie the ribbon in the right-hand corner as a final, loving touch.

Cost: $10 to $20, depending on what supplies you have to buy

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This is a classic, “big kids with money” kind of Valentine. I loved shopping for it as much as I loved putting it together. If you’re trying to one-up your own awesomeness, which I absolutely was the year I unveiled this bad boy balla basket, this is the perfect homemade gift.

What you’ll need: A basket, bucket or bowl (to hold all the spoils that don’t compare to your boo), lottery tickets, gold coin chocolates, PayDay and Hundred Grand candy bars, mini shots of Goldschläger cinnamon schnapps, festive tissue paper and anything else money related that makes you smile (because you can bet that, if you see it and get excited, he’ll have the same reaction)

Directions: Put your gift-bag stuffing skills to work and save the printed sign for another holiday -- you’ll want to hand-write “I hit the jackpot when I met you.”

Cost: $20 to $30, depending on the size basket you need to fill

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Sometimes, the person you love needs to be reminded of how far he’s come. This map was super time-consuming, but beautiful and comforting for my boo. At the time, he had just turned 30 and was feeling like he was behind, like he hadn’t accomplished enough. So I made this collage map to remind him of all the places he’d traveled, and thus, all the things he had achieved. I included his favorite Bible verse in the corner: Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

What you’ll need: A printer, a list of places traveled, white card stock, glue or double-sided tape, a double-sided glass picture frame, heart stickers

Directions: Print off images of the places traveled. Piece them together and stick them on the white card stock. Mark each spot with a heart sticker. Use another piece of tape to stick the collage to the back side of the frame. Close the top of the frame onto the collage.

Cost: $15 to $25, depending on size of frame

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Not all homemade Valentine’s need to be 100% made from scratch. Remember, it’s about the time you invest — not the money or the construction. I went to Craft Haus in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. for this one (just Google for a DIY pottery spot near you). I carried my sweet mentee, Maria, along — teaching her the way. We chose pottery that we wanted our SOS to use on a regular basis, so I went with the mug because he loves hot tea and coffee. He is also at his most peaceful when he’s near the water, hence the abstract beach scene. As I painted this mug over the course of two days, I thought of Psalm 139, and how true that verse was for my beloved.

What you’ll need: Time and money. No artistic skills necessary. (When in defense of your creation, just call it “abstract.”)

Directions: Let your heart move your brush.

Cost: $20 to $50, which includes the paint and firing

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This is probably one of the sweetest and easiest things you can do for anyone you love. And getting in the head space to write nearly a dozen letters is pretty fun too. Hit up your favorite coffee spot (I went to Johan’s Joe in West Palm Beach, Fla. for this one) or dim the lights in your room. Turn on the song that paints the most vivid picture of your Valentine. Each letter will be labeled “Open when....” And then a time the letter is to be opened. “Open when... It’s Valentine’s Day, I’m being grumpy, You want to reminisce, You’re not feeling handsome, You’re mad at me, You can’t sleep, You wonder what I love about you.” Write a letter to each of those. Be sweet. Be funny. Be poetic. Include pictures, drawings, your scent.

What you’ll need: Notebook paper, pen, envelopes, stickers for decorations, ribbon

Directions: Label each envelope. Write each letter. Get creative with the outside. Tie the bundle together with a ribbon.

Cost: $7 to $25, depending on how fancy you want to get

So there you have it. A whole lot of truth and a few ideas to help you execute the biggest Valentine’s Day win ever. Oh, I should tell you though: I am really not a “crafter.” I mean, the only one of these ideas that came from my own mind was the collage map. The rest? Pinterest.

Morals of the story:

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to beat Hallmark. You just have to make time to ride.

When you’ve finally gifted all these and more to the SAME PERSON, it’s time to stun the world: Elope in your favorite date spot, hope on a plane to Seoul, South Korea and announce on Facebook when you’re in the air!

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.