Good tools aren't cheap. I use hog ring pliers made by C.S. Osborne. The ones I use are like the model 8505 ones here: Pliers - Osborne Hog Ring, Air Equipment, Upholstery Tools, Pliers - 3 Prong Clip, Pliers - Osborne Hog Ring from Rochford Supply - Your Online Textile and Upholstery Superstore!
That is just a personal preference, use whichever ones you like best. The rubber bands hold the hog ring in the pliers.
No one lives forever, the trick is creating something that will.