Ventura County Area Daily Deals, Coupons and Other Bargain Hunting Websites

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Launched in November 2008, Groupon popularized the deal-a-day concept for daily discounted "coupons" or gift certificates good for deals at local retailers and service providers, such as spa treatments, classes, restaurants, massages, tanning salons, haircuts, offering 50% to as much as 90% off retail price.

There are now hundreds of daily deal sites around the world. Locally here in the Conejo Valley and Greater Ventura County, ConejoDeals.com was the first site to launch a daily deal program, back in April 2010.

Below are websites and apps that offer daily deals, anytime deals and/or good old fashioned coupons in the Ventura County area*:

ConejoDeals.com - Daily deals centered in the Conejo Valley and surrounding areas.

Travelzoo.com - Offers a variety of discounted packages for restaurants, activities and getaways in the Central Coast and San Fernando Valley areas.

Groupon Ventura County - Groupon started this VC daily deal site in October 2010.

Restaurant.com - Offers an array of discount gift certificates at local restaurants. Worth checking out. Do be aware of minimum purchase requirements when you buy.

MOGL.com - Sign up and receive 7 to 10% cash back when you dine at a number of local restaurants, including (as of June 2019): Karma Indian Cuisine T.O., Baja Fresh Camarillo, D’Amore’s Famous Pizza Camarillo, Johnny Rockets Camarillo, Zin Bistro Americana, Subzero Ice Cream Simi Valley, The Alamo Bar and Grill, Bandits’ Grill & Bar, Grabbagreen, Marie Callenders, Hatch Cafe and others.

LocalFlavor.com offers a number of deals in the Ventura County area.

MoneyMailer.com - Offers printable coupons for hundreds of local businesses as well as a mobile app. Type in your zip code and look for coupons when you need them.

LocalSaver.com - Printable coupons for local restaurants, retailers and service providers.

CouponsAndMoreVentura.com - Printable coupons for businesses in the Ventura area.

* Note that this list is current as of June 2019 but is subject to change at any time. Feel free to CONTACT US with any notable changes.

The So Called "Tax Cuts" and Jobs Act of 2017 Eliminated Deductibility of Alimony for Divorces in 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 made divorce quite possibly much more expensive. Beginning for divorces executed in 2019, alimony paid by one spouse to another spouse is no longer deductible by the spouse making the payments. Inversely, the alimony is not taxable to the spouse being paid.

On the face of it, this sound pretty good for the payee. You no longer have to pay taxes on your alimony!

But the problem is that the payor, who is likely to be in a higher tax bracket than the payee, will no longer be able to reduce his or her or his taxable income by the amount of the alimony paid.

For grins (or perhaps groans), let’s look at an example.

Billy Bob and Billie Jean get divorced on January 1, 2019. Billy Bob earns $150,000 per year. Billie Jean does not work. As part of the divorce settlement, Billy Bob must pay $30,000 in alimony per year.

Using 2019 federal tax rate schedules, and assuming both deduct only the $12,200 per year 2019 standard deduction, Billy Bob would pay $27,295 in federal taxes in 2019. Billie Jean would pay no taxes on her alimony.

If the divorce agreement had been finalized one day earlier, December 31, 2018, Billy Bob would have reduced his taxable income by the $30,000 in alimony paid to Billie Jean. As a result, his 2019 federal taxes would be $20,095, fully $7,200 less than under the new laws. Billy Bob is in the 24% federal tax bracket.

Billie Jean would have to pay taxes on the $30,000 received had the divorce been finalized in 2018, but after taking into account the $12,000 standard deduction, her federal taxes would be $1,966.

So some might think, GOOD! Now Billie Jean doesn’t have to pay taxes! Good for her!

Well, let’s look at the bigger picture. The total taxes paid on that same $150,000 in total earned income in 2019 has increased by $5,234, from $22,061 ($20,095 plus $1,966) in 2018 to $27,295 in 2019. That’s a 24% increase in federal taxes as a result of the so called “Tax Cuts” and Jobs Act of 2017.

This may result in some particularly more heated discussions in future divorce proceedings.

Unlike other of the so called “Tax Cuts” laws that were changed on a retroactive basis that hurt middle class taxpayers (such as the arbitrary $10,000 per year “cap” on state and local taxes that has hit many in California particularly hard), this change in tax law was not made retroactive.

In other words, if you were divorced prior to 2019, the deductibility of alimony payments was not taken away from you. It just applies on a go-forward basis.

On behalf of all current year and future divorcees, thank you to our brilliant legislators who make these drastic changes in tax laws impacting our financial livelihoods.

More on the treatment of alimony at www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc452.

Take Advantage of AAA Membership Benefits and Discounts

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The Automobile Club is a non-profit service organization with over 51 million members, including 6 million in Southern California.  If you are not already a member, you should consider becoming one.

Basic membership is $51 per year plus a one time $20 admission fee (as of May 2019). Membership provides for towing up to 7 miles, discounted rental cars, emergency fuel delivery, locksmith service, access to AAA offices and services, free maps and travel planning, etc. Upgraded plans (AAA Plus and AAA Premier) are available, with additional benefits.

But where membership can really pay off are savings on products and services.  Here are a few that really stand out (updated May 2019...subject to change).

  • Getting a AAA rate on hotels like Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, Best Western and others can easily save you 5% to 20% on your room, which can more than pay for your AAA membership.

  • Visit a AAA office and buy Regal/Edwards and Cinemark/Century movie theater tickets at up to 40% off regular prices!

    • AMC Theatre Black Tickets $10.74 online (vs $15.50 at the gate).

    • Regal/Edwards Theatres Premiere ticket $10 online vs $15 at the theatre.

  • $2 off admission to the Kidspace Children’s Museum in Pasadena.

  • 10% off admission to the Autry National Center in Los Angeles (next to the LA Zoo).

  • 30% off regular admission and 10% off merchandise at Knott's Berry Farm. Also save up to $15 on tickets to Knott's Soak City at AAA branches.

  • 25% off when you purchase advance tickets to Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach at an AAA branch and 10% off at the gate or online.

  • Save on advance tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood and $3 off when you show your AAA card at the gate. As of January 2019, 1-day adult admission $95 and kids tickets $89 in advance, compared to $99 from Universal Studios directly - savings of $4 to $10 per ticket.

  • 25% off Crocs online and at all Crocs-owned stores and outlets.

  • Save up to 37% off passes to Six Flags Magic Mountain online.

  • Save 5% at the gate at LEGOLAND California Resort

  • Save 20% off certain Sea World passes at AAA offices, 10% off online and $5 at the gate

  • If you plan on a multi-day visit to Disneyland, save by buying passes at a AAA office

  • 10% off at Mimi's Cafe (locations in Thousand Oaks and Ventura)

  • 10% off food, games and non-alcoholic drinks at Dave & Buster’s

  • 10% off all regularly priced menu items at Wetzel’s Pretzels.

  • 10% off Dell PCs

  • 10% off haircuts with a shampoo at Supercuts by showing your card.

Hundreds more discounts listed on the AAA website. There's also a free AAA iPhone and Android app to find AAA discounts in your area.

So even if you don't think you'll need roadside assistance or towing, it could really pay off having a AAA membership.  Visit the Auto Club of Southern California website at www.calif.aaa.com/home.html for more information.

Exploring the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion at Dodger Stadium

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I've been a Dodger fan my entire life, having been born and raised in the Los Angeles area and moving to the Conejo Valley in the mid 1990s.

When I was a kid, my dad would take us to the game a couple times each season. We sat in the cheapest seats and on our way there would stop by McDonald's or In-N-Out Burger and bring food into the stadium.

Today, while still fans of the Dodgers, we rarely go to games. Just too many other things going on in our life. But I decided it would be fun to take the kids on a Saturday night.

BUYING TICKETS ONLINE

Plenty of tickets are available, but I had moderate sticker shock at the prices. The cheapest seats on the Dodgers ticketing website were $28 + $6.50 "Convenience" fee (whatever that means) and a $5.10 "Processing" fee. It certainly would be nice if all online ticket sellers just have one "all in" price that clearly shows the total price.

I was amazed at how terrible the Dodgers' ticketing website is, compared to other sites like StubHub and SeatGeek. They make you run Flash and don't provide a view from the seats like the other sites do.

In any case, I reviewed multiple alternatives to the Dodgers' ticketing website and went with StubHub. StubHub adds a service fee and a fulfillment fee to ticket prices. These fees vary based on event and ticket type. For the Dodgers game, the service fees were in the 23-25% range and fulfillment fees were $2. Factoring these fees in, StubHub still had the best overall prices for comparable seats out of the options I looked at.

PICKING THE SEATS

I was taking three kids to the game and my cheapest alternative were seats way, way up high in the Top Deck or Reserve areas. I didn't really want to be that high up, so I looked at the alternative of the bleacher seats. 

I'm not a fan of bleacher seats as they are just that - long benches with numbered seatbacks - no individual seats. I'm that guy who is annoyed the entire flight on a plane where the guy next to me's arm intrudes on my space. So bleacher seats probably are not the best idea for me.

But on second thought, we're only talking two to three hours and the kids would enjoy it. How bad could it be, right? So I decided to look at seats in the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion. They were about $20 to $25 more than the seats in the Left Field Pavilion, but ALL YOU CAN EAT sounded like a fun option with the kids.

The bleacher seats make you feel closer to the action IMO than the seats in nosebleed land.

The bleacher seats make you feel closer to the action IMO than the seats in nosebleed land.

THE ALL YOU CAN EAT PAVILION

If it were me and a buddy, I would not sit in the Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Pavilion because, well, I'm not big into gorging myself. But hey, I was with the kids, and thought it would be fun to just let em at it and not worry about cash. And indeed it was fun.

A few things to note. We are not talking about a gourmet selection in this deal. We're talking Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn and non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks, iced tea and water). No ice cream, churros, cotton candy or beer (though those were available for sale). And no pizza, hamburgers or other food items. One pizza vendor walked by around the 7th inning; I suppose he was desperate to unload them at that point.

Is the All You Can Eat Pavilion worth it? Well it comes down to numbers. If you were to consume one Dodger Dog (cost is $6.50), one bag of peanuts ($5 estimate) and one drink ($6 insanely expensive), you are consuming $17.50 of Dodger Stadium cuisine. Throw in one other item, like another hot dog or nachos, and you've pretty much broken even on the deal. 

Two of the three kids with me "broke even." So I had to personally make up for the third kid's under-consumption. Indeed I was hungry on the drive from Thousand Oaks to Dodger Stadium, so I was prepared for the challenge. In fact, I went for a run that morning to ensure my metabolism was raring to go.

My take: 3 Dodger Dogs (really closer to 2 1/2 as I couldn't finish the 3rd one), 1 iced tea (refilled once), 2 bags of peanuts (I brought one home) and 2 bags of popcorn. Ignoring the refill, I think I devoured about $46 retail value in food.

Of course consuming all that salty food might make one thirsty. I woke up the next morning with a very dry mouth. And I certainly got my money's worth the night before so it was worth it. Kind of.

I had fond memories of Dodger Dogs going back to my childhood. They were great back then. But these Dodger Dogs were lukewarm at best and had kind of a metallic taste to them. I find the hot dogs at Costco, for $1.50, INCLUDING drink, to be more fulfilling.

The popcorn I thought was actually pretty good for pre-bagged popcorn. The peanuts were quite salty. The nachos were meh, not particularly good, according to the kids. 

THE BLEACHER SEATS

They weren't that bad. It was fun. The crowds were pretty mellow and there were a lot of families/kids out there.

There is zero room between your legs and knees and the row in front of you, but thankfully we didn't experience too much back and forth of people passing by as we were seated towards the middle of the row.

Great view of the field. We had to twist our necks a bit to see the big video screen, but it wasn't too bad.

There's nowhere to place your food and drinks, so you have to kind of balance the food in a tray on your lap. There's no cup holder for the drink. I placed my iced tea under the bench, where it was soon joined by trash. In fact, the amount of trash left by attendees was jaw dropping.

Quite a mess under the seats of the bleacher benches.

Quite a mess under the seats of the bleacher benches.

My back was a little tweaked by the end of the game, but I survived. Though the Dodgers lost, the game was entertaining, as was the between-inning on-screen shenanigans. It was a fun night out.

GETTING THERE AND PARKING

I decided to use the Waze app to tell me the best way, factoring in traffic conditions, to get to Dodger Stadium. Without the app, the natural way I would go would be the 101 east to the 134 east to the 5 south.

Waze informed me that I would get there 12 minutes faster from Newbury Park via the 23 north to the 118 east to the 5 south to the 134 east to the 2 south to the 5 south. Yep, a bit out of the way, but it worked like a charm. A very stress-free drive, with minimal traffic.

Going home was much more direct - 5 north to 134 west, then 101 west. If you find yourself in the right-hand lane on Stadium Way coming out of Dodger Stadium, you will be forced to go on the 5 south. Whoops, wrong way! But if you do find yourself in this situation, not to worry. Continue on the 5 about half a mile and take the Riverside offramp, turn right, then you'll soon see a 5 north onramp.

Parking at the stadium is $25. DO buy a parking pass on the Dodgers ticketing website in advance for $15 to save yourself $10. www.mlb.com/dodgers/ballpark/transportation/parking

Was fun catching a Justin Turner home run in the 4th inning.

Was fun catching a Justin Turner home run in the 4th inning.

IN SUMMARY

  • Dodger Stadium is just 40 to 60 minutes from the Conejo Valley and is a fun entertainment option for the entire family.

  • Plenty of seating options are available. The Coca-Cola All You Can Eat Right Field Pavilion is a great option if your family enjoys Dodger Dogs, popcorn, peanuts, nachos and soft drinks.

Earned Income Tax Credit & Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Locations in Ventura County

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The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program is a refundable tax credit available to individuals and families earning less than $49,194 and $54,884, respectively, in 2018. This is the federal government's largest anti-poverty measure and refunds can amount to as much as $6,431 (for 2018) for families with three or more qualifying children.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program recruits volunteer tax preparers to provide free preparation of federal and state income tax returns to taxpayers with incomes less than $55,000 in 2018. VITA benefits these taxpayers by eliminating the cost of commercial tax return preparation and by securing valuable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and EITC.

Local VITA location sites are as follows (see this IRS link for details, including dates and times):

What to bring:

  • Proof of identification (photo ID)

  • Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents

  • An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for you, your spouse and your dependents if you do not have a Social Security number

  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN

  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return

  • Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R,1099-Misc) from all employers

  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)

  • Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received

  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available

  • Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as a blank check

  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms

  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider's tax identifying number such as their Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number

  • Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements

  • Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable

www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers

Other Free Online Tax Filing Options for Federal and State Income Taxes

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In addition to MyFreeTaxes.com, (described in THIS POST), there are other online resources to enable those with simple tax returns to file for free online. Generally these options cover those W-2 income, some interest/dividends, kids and rent. What they don’t cover are itemized deductions, Schedule C (for self-employed individuals claiming business expenses), stock gains/losses, etc. Here are some options:

H&R Block www.hrblock.com/online-tax-filing/free-online-tax-filing

TurboTax Free Edition turbotax.intuit.com

TaxAct has the same option at www.taxact.com

TaxSlayer www.taxslayer.com

DIY Tax www.freetax.com

Jackson Hewitt www.jacksonhewitt.com/file-taxes-online

And these are just a few. No need to pay someone to do your taxes if you have a simple return!

MyFreeTaxes.com Offers Free Income Tax Preparation Service to Eligible Americans

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MyFreeTaxes.com offers free federal and state tax preparation and filing services both online and in person to eligible Americans across the country. 

MyFreeTaxes national and local partners also provide taxpayers with eligibility information about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other tax credits to help them keep more of what they earn.

Individuals and families earning less than $66,000 in 2018 are eligible to use MyFreeTaxes.com for their 2018 tax returns. MyFreeTaxes.com tax filing software is provided by H&R Block®.

Or if you made $54,000 or less in 2018 and would like help in preparing your tax returns, click this link for Ventura County area Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.