RISMEDIA — How much should you plan to tip your housecleaner, child-care provider or hairdresser this holiday season? The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey earlier this year—when memories of holiday tips were fresh—to find out.

Despite the recession, respondents who did tip spent at about the same rate as in years past. The highest median tip was $35, for the category of cleaning people, with a few service providers receiving thank-yous as high as $500. If you plan on offering gifts of thanks this holiday season, take these tips from Consumer Reports:

• Give cash equal to the value of one session or a week's wage to self-employed or lower-wage earners.
• Gift cards can be useful for tipping mail carriers. They aren't supposed to accept cash, but can accept gift cards valued at $20 or less that can't be exchanged for cash. Otherwise, you might want to avoid gift cards because of their fees.
• Be sure that food gifts won't trigger an allergic reaction or violate dietary restrictions.
• If you're keeping to a tight budget and can't afford to tip this year, consider writing a heartfelt note of thanks instead.