Most people use tapers, and most people also don't have a clue what they're doing which is why so many people wear them :P They're tools, not jewellery.
Basically...one size at a time, don't skip sizes, 6 weeks minimum between stretches, use lube when you stretch, use titanium/steel/glass for a fresh stretch (not acrylic or organics).
You're probably at around 1mm now if you're wearing fashion earrings, so you should go 1.2mm, 1.6mm, 2mm, 2.4mm, 3/3.2mm, 4mm. You probably won't need tapers for the first 2 sizes at least.
Buying stuff online tends to be much cheaper. I prefer using bodyartforms.com, you can get a taper and pair of plugs for around £3.50 in their stretching kits. They also have a 20% off sale at the moment, so buy a few sets so you have some for the future!
That's the stretching kit.
16g - 1.2mm
14g - 1.6mm
12g - 2mm
10g - 2.4mm
8g - 3/3.2mm (varies)
6g - 4mm