Re: SO far behind–what first?
Where I live, there is always free mulch available at the municipal brush dump. You need to bring your own bags or tarp or a truck and load it yourself, but hey it’s free! The village doesn’t exactly advertise it, so there is always plenty of well aged mulch, perfect for my perennial beds. It is worth seeing if your municipality has something similar. If they collect leaves etc. in the fall, they probably do. If you live in a city, they might charge for it. If your municipality is anything like my village (a little disorganized), you may have to call around a bit before you find someone who knows about the brush dump.
Another potential source of free mulch is horse farms. Often they have old composted stable bedding that they are only too happy to have you come and cart away.
It may take some time (maybe a project for next year when you’re not behind) but once you’ve found a free source of mulch it is usually available year after year.
Hay is a traditional mulch in veg. gardens, but it can rob nitrogen as it breaks down. Straw is older(mature) when it is harvested, so it carries plenty of seeds- not the best when you are trying to keep weeds out!