There are ways to save money on school stuff, though there is sometimes only so much you can do. Some school systems are reasonable about school supplies while others are ridiculously rigid.
However, if you have the choice, look for spiral notebooks and binder paper in the late summer and early fall when they're drastically marked down and stock up with enough for the year. We often find the 70 page spiral note books at 7 to 10 for $1 at that time of year, and about the same deal on packages of 100 sheets of binder paper. Follow the prices over the summer on those things and pencils and pens so you know when you're getting a good deal.
You can also usually find binders at a good price, but these are usually the really cheap ones that don't hold up. I prefer the more durable ones because I generally save money on them, but if the person using them is rough on their stuff or loses things a lot, the cheap ones may be more worthwhile.
Avoid the character themed gear if you can. Or be creative. Get a binder with a clear plastic pocket on the front and slip in a picture of this week's "must have" favorite. The advantage to this is you can keep changing the notebook pictures as tastes change. You can also create a montage from cards or smaller pictures for more difficult or sophisticated tastes. This works to recover a lunchbox too. Cut out the picture to fit, glue it on, then cover with clear contact paper.
For the older student, make book bags in school colors using recycled material or my favorite, the recycled jeans bags. You can make notebook covers from fabric in the school colors too. Or a school color cover for a Kindle.
For college, buy second hand textbooks whenever possible, and if an item is optional, check to see if it's in the college's course reserves. Always try to sell back books unless they're basic references for your major. And check to see which books different profs are using. All things being equal, pick the prof whose books are less expensive (but don't let that convince you to pass up a good prof either). Check into computer lab useage and find out if your fees pay for a certain amount of printing, and take advantage of that to print out as many of your papers as possible. In general, the labs will have good quality printing.
That's enough for now, I'll try to post more ideas on another day.