Most major stores offer some kind of discount or loyalty program that can give you extra savings, either right at the register or a few weeks down the road. Three of the nation's largest office-supply stores -- Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax -- all run fee-free programs that reward customers with store credit on a quarterly basis.
"My husband and I shop at Staples for office supplies throughout the year," says Julie Wheaton, a writer in San Diego. "I save the rewards points for school supplies. Just be aware of expiration dates -- you might have to buy notebook paper and binders earlier than usual to meet a coupon's expiration date."
When it comes to school clothing, many apparel and shoe stores also provide discounts in the form of Web-based coupons. These printable discounts are either available on the store's website or offered to customers who join the company's e-newsletter list. People who agree to receive emails from clothing giant Old Navy, for example, will receive a "$10-off when you spend $50" coupon in their inboxes as a thank you. And don't forget to check the website of your planned shopping venue, too. "Most people don't think of going to the shopping mall's website to get coupons, but you'd be surprised how many you can print," Nelson says. "I've found this to be especially true of outlet malls."