So you want the yard to look good, but how much is that going to cost in pine straw or mulch?? I don't know about you, but it pains me to pay for something I can get for free. If you call a local tree company or even the local electric company, they will put you on their "list". See the companies that take down trees have to pay to dump the shredded tree mulch. Of course, they would rather not pay, so they are thrilled when someone will take the chips. When you are on their list, the next time they take trees down near your house, they will gladly come and dump a huge pile anywhere you tell them. And you don't have to take the whole truck load, you can ask them to stop whenever you have enough...1/2 load, 1/4 load, whatever you need.
Now, I'm not gonna kid you moving that mulch wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow is hard work. It's physical labor, which is pretty much the catch in this free deal. But it's better than going to the gym on a beautiful spring day and your yard will look fabulous. The added bonus is kids LOVE playing king and queen of the mountain on top of the giant mulch pile.