I don’t buy Valentine’s cards. Why would I pay someone else to tell my wife I love her? Seriously. So here are my thoughts on how to be a Valentine DIY-er.

Stick it to the man! Even if Hallmark isn’t a man!

It’s pretty easy to sympathize with those who are concerned that companies like Hallmark take financial advantage of holidays. So the option of writing your own valentine card can be a good one, despite the danger of appearing to be stingy and miserly. However, a well written card can certainly make your valentine forget that kind of impression.

Before you start writing, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that you should use something more than plain white paper. Why? Because this will be a keeper for your beloved, so get some acid free awesomeness. Try a flashier paper, maybe even bonded, that will provide a pleasant background color for your perfect prose or poetry.

Now that you’ve chosen the best paper for your card, you also want to think about images. Perhaps you can create a lovely heart with an arrow in it. Or, if you are allergic to such dairy-filled cheesiness, you could even put a picture of a puppy or kitten on there.

Gah. Never mind.

Do something else. Think about the message you will include and try to have the image you add tie in well thematically. So print out a picture of the two of you doing something fun. Or take a picture of the bed and put that on there.

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

As for the message you write in your own Valentine’s Day card, here are some things to remember.

1. Think about specific things that you like/love about your valentine. Their hair, eyes, what they do, how they chew, their laugh, the way they kiss.. and so on. Write them down. You don’t have to make a poem. Simply make a list called, “What I love about you:” Then write another list heading called, “What I don’t love about you:” Then, of course, leave the second one empty.

2. Your valentine needs to see your sincerity on the card. Don’t lavish the “I Love You’s”. Specific things like those mentioned above, followed by some simple, sweet phrase such as: “I love you.” “Life is rich with you.” “Moments with you are filled with smiles.” and so on can be truly touching.

This cannot be emphasized enough. Don’t go with hyperbole unless you are a skilled writer who can make the hyperbole effective and not just treacly. Stick to simple phrases that demonstrate thoughtfulness and sincerity.

3. A final and very practical suggestion: Yes, go to the card store. Find a card whose message you like. Write it down. Take that home and put it on your own card. You can even include a reference to it on the back of your card if you want to! The point is that you don’t plan on making money from it, so it will be fine.

Hallmark police won’t come knocking on your door. And if they do, just give ’em brownies. With the crusts still on (pshaw Martha Stewart). If that doesn’t work, send them to me. I’ll sic my 4-year-old on them– he’s not nicknamed Sunshine for nothing.

Also, in conclusion, when you give your card, don’t forget the value of a well-timed direct look, sincere smile, and sweet kiss. Time, effort, sincerity and touch. This is the key to your Valentine’s success. (Yes, that acronym is TEST. Not romantic, is it?)