Comfortable living - having everything you need to be comfortable. For some, a 1 bedroom home in the middle of the trees is comfortable. For others they need a 5 bedroom monster with the "right" address. For me, it's not being able to see the color of my neighbor's eyes when I walk outside. Some need a new car every two months and some need something that the windows go down. Comfortable is subjective. I don't want for things. You are after global answers that simply aren't there. You determined that the 3k stipend was not enough for you. For others and that small town lifestyle it's plenty.
I can tell you what I wanted 20 years ago and what I want today are two VERY different things. When I was young I wanted the race and the stuff and the status. I thrived on 60 hour work weeks. Now, I just want birds and stars and time with family. Let the race be run by young and the single and the hungry.
Cost of groceries is high for everyone. That's not going away and not unique to a small town. Clothing - make calculated trips to find discount places, (and even could do this to cut down on the price of groceries too), to purchase clothes. Honestly, how often are you buying clothes? I buy clothes MAYBE every six months. I have simple tastes and don't need a lot. For those that are shoppers, weekend trips to the big city get it done.
I left the big city. I live in a rural town with no clothing, smaller grocery stores, lower insurance, lower inspections, and in general lower, slower, easier living. I don't deal with traffic and the restaurants aren't chains. I am rich and comfortable, (and people I know are appalled at the lifestyle I live sitting in their one bedroom apartment with horns honking and lights flashing thinking I'm the crazy one for not wanting the noise), so I simply say to each their own.