SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Have a Good Date on a College Budget?

Hey Auntie!

For the longest time, I’ve avoided relationships like the plague. They never really interested me after a disastrous one back in middle school. I am now in my sophomore year of college. Have I dated anyone since? Hell no.

I met someone who was in two of my classes, completely by accident, and we wound up being together on a group project. She told me a lot about herself, especially when her life got flipped after her grandma passed away. I told her about my grandma and my cruddy relationship with my dad. Our personalities mix well. We both strive for the highest grade possible and she’s too good for me, I think.

I want to ask her out, once the new semester starts up. I have an idea for a date (lunch at the cafeteria and just chatting) already, but as someone who stutters often and ramble on and on and on, I need some advice on how to ask her out and possibly make the date better. It’s on a college budget, but I could really use your help.

And you shall have it, young grasshopper. Because today, Auntie SparkNotes is going to introduce you — all of you! — to one of the most important, awkwardness-reducing, budget-friendly weapons in your dating arsenal. It’s called The Date Where You Walk Around With a Coffee.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1: You come up with a reason to go for a walk.
And on this front, just about anything goes. It can be an errand, as long as you’re headed somewhere reasonably pleasant (i.e. a bookstore, not the dentist’s office), or more of a walking tour (to look at holiday lights, or flowers blooming, or the snow-covered landscape of a nearby park) — or of course, if you have access to a dog, then you don’t need a destination at all.

Step 2: You tell your crush that you’re taking this walk, and invite her to come along.
“Hey, I was going to take a walk [into town/around the park/with this shelter dog who I have obtained specifically for this occasion]. Would you want to come with me? I’ll buy you a coffee.”

The casual nature of this request means that you shouldn’t make it any more than 24 hours in advance (and your ideal timing would cut it closer still, even right down to the wire. If you know she has downtime after the class you share, you could even ask her as you’re leaving, e.g. “Hey, I was about to grab a coffee and walk over to the bookstore. Want to come?”)

From here, you’ll get one of three outcomes.

Outcome 1: She can’t come, because she’s busy, in which case you can suggest an alternative time for your date (“I’m not in a hurry; if I went later, would you want to come with?”), and see what she says. (If she says yes, then great, go later. If she seems interested but busy, then ask if she’d like to get together next week or weekend, return to Step 1, and repeat. A person who wants to hang out with you won’t keep finding reasons not to.)

Outcome 2: She can’t come, only “can’t” is actually code for “doesn’t want to,” in which case you’ll notice that she seems to be curiously busy for the rest of her natural life.

Or, Outcome 3: She accepts your invitation, you figure out a time to meet up, and The Date Where You Walk Around With a Coffee commences. (Just don’t forget to buy some coffee at the start. Not that you can’t do a walking-around date without it, but let’s be real, coffee > no coffee no matter what the circumstances. It is known.)

And for the record, this isn’t to say there was anything wrong with your original date plan. That plan was totally good! But since you asked how to make this better and easier on yourself, and for those among us who struggle to be cool in situations where there’s a lot of social pressure, this kind of date-on-the-go is a fantastically useful tool for two reasons: first, “Want to accompany me?” is a phrase that nets virtually the same outcome as “Will you go out with me?”, but is a lot less scary to say out loud. And second, for reasons that I don’t entirely understand but probably have something to do with eye contact and blood circulation, it is infinitely easier to talk with someone when you’re walking side by side than when you’re sitting face to face — but just as intimate! Especially if you take pauses from time to time to stand close together and look at the scenery, or sit on a park bench, or wait while the dog you’re walking goes to the bathroom.

…Actually, on second thought, maybe the dog isn’t such a great idea. But everything else? GOLD. And while January might not bring the greatest walking-around weather depending on what part of the country you’re in, a cold day comes with its own set of opportunities — like the one where you duck into another cafe halfway at the end of it to warm up and enjoy each other’s company. Good luck.

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