Relevant quotes from Chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook:
A silver piece buys a laborer’s work for a day, a flask of lamp oil, or a night’s rest in a poor inn.
A modest lifestyle keeps you out of the slums and ensures that you can maintain your equipment. You live in an older part of town, renting a room in a boarding house, inn, or temple. You don’t go hungry or thirsty, and your living conditions are clean, if simple. Ordinary people living modest lifestyles include soldiers with families, laborers, students, priests, hedge wizards, and the like.
In the chart, it shows a cost of 1gp / day for a Modest lifestyle.
How do these prices add up? If a laborer makes about a silver piece for a day’s wages, how in the world are they paying ten silver (one gold) per day for a modest lifestyle? Page 158 shows a price of three silver per day for meals alone at a modest lifestyle level. Even if we ignore all other expenses and just look at the cost of food, it seems like they would be paying three times their daily wage just to eat at that level. We’re not looking at the cost of supporting a family right now – even assuming a single person, the prices don’t seem to add up.
How is a laborer able to sustain a Modest lifestyle while only making one silver per day?