Samples can become expensive, but they and decants are definitely the way to go, especially if you are going to limit yourself to certain perfumers or houses. As far as the perfumer route, I'd hesitate to do that, but perhaps it makes sense for you. I think by house is a good approach because it may help control for quality (both ingredients and perfumer and marketting expenses could be kept under control, generating a consistently better product).
Another option is to keep up to date occasionally (like once or twice a year). Choose a new perfume or two or three, wear those for a year or two, then choose other modern ones that you think are more suitable, wear those for a year or two, etc. You don't need to sniff every single thing out there! Most of the time, it's not worth the chase. I've beent there more times than I can count!