This year I am sending home a letter, and there will be NO backpacks for my students this year. The can bring a lunchbox and a they will have their homework folders. That's it. I can't spare the space. I will collect shopping bags that they can use to take home things they can't carry. I hate the ones with the wheels most of all!
I saw at Michael's they have wooden coathooks for $1. I thought it might be a cute project to decorate them and then use those for the coats, though it would be cheaper in the longrun to just buy some regular coathooks and put those up, because I wouldn't have to purchase a new set each year. I really think coathooks are a necessity, since you don't want wet coats balled up on the floor or in a cubby.
You can buy those metal square shelves that link together. Those would make good cubbies. Or if you want something even cheaper, see if you can find stackable milk crates. You could even find those for free sometimes at grocery stores and spray paint them so they match.
I know a teacher who put all the backpacks in three rubbermaid tubs with lids and they stayed there all day. Lunches were kept in a laundry basket outside the door, and they just grabbed them before going into the cafeteria.
What if you bought a few standing coat racks?? I bet they can be found cheap somewhere... Each one would probably hold 6-8 coats, and you could buy 2 or 3 of them. Then stand them in a corner or something. At least it wouldn't take up wall space. I don't think those would support backpacks though.
(this one is very expensive.)
(this one is cheap and holds a lot of coats.)