It’s not nearly as pretty but straw is an excellent mulch and much cheaper. I’ve had great success with a layer of cardboard and then straw on top of that. Important to do it over moist soil. The cardboard/straw method has worked wonders for my soil when I didn’t have the funds for wood-based mulch. The only downside of straw is that if it is fresh it can sprout a bit. One cure for that is to have a couple stacks always aging In the weather. They’ll sprout while still in bale form and then die off. Use them when they’ve been out for a month or so and gone through the sprouting stage.
It doesn’t have the neat, natural look that wood mulch has but I still find great fungi and earthworm activity going on and when it has broken down in 8 months or so the soil is much improved.