I feel like I'm leaking money this month. It's frightening.

The worst part is that I kind of am, although not as fast as I think, and all of it for things I actually have to buy. Having an extreme amount of money makes you start losing the distinction between things you want and things you need -- when you have heaps more money than sense, you start thinking your life requires a Porsche 911, for instance. When you have no money at all, you start telling yourself that your socks don't have that many holes, and your shoes are mostly fine. It's gotten to the point where I'll stand in the grocery store and argue with myself over whether I really need to buy food, which scares me a bit, since I already don't eat when I'm under a lot of stress.

Mostly what's happened was that moving was slightly cheaper than I anticipated, and the boss-lady at Circlet is actively looking for extra things to hand me so I can bill for them. So now it's time to order batches of things I need to replace before I go bonkers or manage to hurt myself (replacement MP3 player for the one I dropped somewhere near Harvard, shoes that don't have holes in the soles), things you always need for a new apartment (shelves, hangers, wall hooks), and things that I've been meaning to replace for a while but didn't get around to it because I had to mail order them, I didn't know where my permanent address would be, and FedEx/UPS/airmail respects no USPS Change of Address cards (bras, dance shoes, non-shitty sunglasses).

I've developed a weird sort of loyalty to some of my cheap stuff. I always shop first and foremost for price, so I can figure out the rock-bottom cheapest way to get what exactly what I'm looking for. I actively reject things, especially gizmos, that have too many bonus features I will never, ever use -- I wanted a Kindle reader without a touch screen, for instance, and the last time I bought a laptop, I specifically did not want a 17.5" display. There are usually a couple of non-negotiable things it must have, like the droidphone with a physical keyboard. There are a precious few cases where the very cheapest stuff really isn't acceptable, mostly when you're talking about stuff that's $2 for worthless dreck vs. $6 for something I can use. I discovered as an undergrad that V05 shampoo is pretty much the same thing as store brand dish soap, only even less expensive, and it smells more like Jolly Ranchers.

After that I start picking favorite brands. When I'm shopping for data storage, for instance, I'll preferentially buy Western Digital platter drives, and Memorex or Sandisk flash media, even if it means paying an extra 10% or so. Those brands always have products in the low-to-medium price range I'm looking at, and I've learned the hard way that the things they make are virtually unkillable. I buy Converse or DC skate shoes, because when they're on sale they're cheaper than big athletic brands like Adidas or Nike, or fashion brands like Vans, and don't wear out any faster. (If I played actual sports, it would be a different matter; all I do is walk the tread off the bottom.) I'm a bit fussy about clothing brands, not because of price -- they all cost pretty much the same at Marshall's and T J Maxx -- but because different labels use different fit models, and believe me, if I find someone who makes pants for people with hips, I will never abandon them.

One place I cannot say enough good things about is Rose & Thorne lingerie. Something I learned while stocking shelves at Target is that American bra manufacturers send their stuff in standard lots, which have 34A-D, 36B-D, and 38B-DD, and that's it. If you wear anything else, you have to jump from department store brands up into specialty shop brands, which means going from more $20 bras than you can shake a stick at, to $60 bras that only come in one style and three colors. I wear a 32 band with a large D or small DD cup, and I cannot walk into a Kohl's and just buy a damn Maidenform bra, because as far as they're concerned, I don't exist. I can't even go to Victoria's Secret for one of their pretty-but-crap bras anymore -- they've discontinued their smaller band sizes.

I have therefore given in and started ordering my underwear from New Zealand. No kidding. I had an expat friend send me a couple of R&T bras before they started mailing things out of the country, and even with exchange and shipping it came out cheaper than trying to get anything in the US. They have US and UK sites now, with prices in local currency, and if you order more than 60USD of stuff they'll send it to you gratis. I say 'send' instead of 'mail', because I'm not convinced they don't have some crazy form of teleporter over there -- I bought a bunch of bras over the weekend, got the shipping notice Monday, and the parcel was sitting on my front stoop when I came home from Cambridge on Tuesday afternoon. I expect part of this is because I live a short drive away from one of the busiest airports in the world, where FedEx has its own cargo terminal (visible from the Harbor cruise!), but I also note that the Amazon order I put in on Thursday morning arrived at the exact same time, and it only came from Indiana.

R&T has a number of design features that I really like, first and foremost that they engineer their bras according to cup size rather than band size. A lot of American manufacturers design one band for any given size and just graft the cups onto that. A 32D, for instance, has the same band as a 32A -- two hooks on the back, and lightweight straps that attach only to the top elastic -- even though, relative to the band, a D-cup has to support and contain a lot more mass than an A-cup. This is not the case with Rose & Thorne. Their 32D bras have reinforced 3-hook closures, and heavier shoulder straps that attach to both the top and bottom elastic in the back. The cups on the larger cups are cut relatively far out to the sides and are slow to descend to the narrow part of the band under the arms, which prevents your boobs from trying to escape out into your armpits. The push-up styles have pads that curve around the side and bottom, rather than having flat shelf gels that shove you up and into the middle. I can jam small objects (where "small objects" are defined as "anything at or below the size of my new phone") into the center of a plunge at the bottom of the cup, and they don't fall out or poke weirdly against my shirt.

They are also easy to fix. Don't laugh -- if you've never altered anything, you're either obscenely lucky, or you've never had a piece of non-stretch clothing that fit properly. I don't own a single pair of jeans or work trousers that I haven't monkeyed with somehow. If it takes me less than half an hour to make a garment fit me absolutely perfectly, I consider it a rousing success. Bras are a particular PITA, even when I'm not forced to take a 34 band down to a 32, because it's the only thing I can find with cups that fit. There is a way to take in (non-lace) spandex/lycra bands that are too big or have stretched out over time, which I may post as a tutorial now that I have a camera on the phone I'm never going to put down again, but it takes a lot of time and planning, can only be done by hand, and only works if you do it right by the hooks, which is a problem if dragging the straps closer together in the back alters the cup fit in front.

I normally buy push-up or t-shirt plunge styles, because I have a persistent problem with the center gore on full-coverage and balconette bras being too wide. The R&T Perky Power bras fit me quite nicely without alteration, but I also have one of their Smooth Operator bras that needed the front narrowed slightly. A lot of brands are unfixable, because of sloppy construction that makes the underwire casing poke out into the space where the front center stitching line needs to go. Not so with R&T; they are quite precise with all of their reinforced corners, and as a result, I have a lovely royal purple full-coverage bra that I have been known to wear all by itself under the jacket to a particularly slutty satin suit I own. It's even easy to reposition their little black wire rose charm, which I did, because anyone scrutinizing the bra when I'm dressed like that is probably another woman wondering what brand it is and where I bought it.

Best part: Rose & Thorne bras are all about 20-25USD. Including the extended cup sizes, which run from the equivalent of a US 30A up through 42G. All but one or two styles also come as convertibles -- which, if you are not a big bra person, means that instead of sewing the straps on at both ends, they end in little metal hooks that slide into loops at the top of the cup and on the back band. You can hook them crosswise, as a halter-neck, on just one side or one diagonal for asymmetrical necklines, or leave them off entirely. The Perky Power convertibles have a slightly wider and heftier back band, so they stay in place when worn strapless, and the loops are attached to both the top and bottom elastic, just as the permanent straps are on the regular model. And even the utilitarian colors are pretty -- the black has graphite grey detailing, and the ivory has Easter pink.

Everything has at least one style of matching knickers available, although I never bother unless I'm buying lingerie for a photoshoot. (I developed the habit of purchasing my underwear in the most obnoxious colors I could find when I had two female roommates who owned nothing but black bikinis, one in small and one in medium, and I wanted to make sure I always got my own skivvies back after we mounted a joint Laundry Expedition. I figure anyone who's getting a chance to scrutinize my panties is either doing my laundry and doesn't care, or is about to take them off me and really doesn't care.) All of their everything is made of a blend that has enough natural fiber to breathe, and enough synthetic fiber that they dry overnight, and you're not tempted to ruin them by pitching them into a hot tumble dryer. Technically, you're not supposed to pitch them in the washer either, but the hooks stay closed when they're in a lingerie bag, so cold/cold with no bleach and minimal detergent treats them well enough.

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